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‘Destroyed me financially’: Uber Eats drivers near homelessness as pay halved

(Source: Uber)
(Source: Uber)

Uber Eats drivers have reported “barely afford[ing] rent” and are “thinking of sleeping in [their] car” after falls in delivery volumes saw drivers cop a pay cut.

In a survey of 67 drivers in Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong conducted by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), some Uber Eats drivers have been pushed to the brink of homelessness.

It follows changes to Uber Eats’ delivery system, which TWU claims saw cyclists and scooter-riders preferred over drivers, in turn driving a fall in delivery volume for drivers and subsequently, their pay.

Uber Eats drivers saw their pay fall by half from $26.70 an hour to $13.90 on average, according to TWU.

Where many drivers reported wait times of roughly 5 to 15 minutes for a delivery order to come through, the wait has now extended to upwards of half an hour, with some reporting wait times could get as bad as “3-4 hours for one order”.

‘Very hard to survive’: Uber Eats drivers

In the survey, one driver said they now “earn nowhere near enough to cover my expenses”.

“It’s just not worth doing anymore,” the driver said.

Several drivers said they had to work more hours to afford bills and food to support their families, and to save for their future.

“It’s been ridiculous day by day because it’s very hard to find trips in the busy area too [sic],” one driver said.

“Only cyclists are getting order [sic]. It’s very hard to survive for me.”

One driver said they were using Uber to save for a holiday and a new car, but that now they had to pull finances from their full-time job, “which isn’t helping”.

Another was clear about the devastating effects of the pay cut.

“It has destroyed me financially,” one driver said, as another echoed closely: “It has destabilised me financially.”

“Had to apply for bankruptcy due to the loss of income,” said another.

‘No warning’: TWU

“The problem for drivers is the massive drop-off in work,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine told Yahoo Finance.

“A few months back car delivery driver drivers with UberEats experienced a massive drop off in orders – it was clear that UberEats had started to preference cyclists and scooter riders.

“But the company gave no warning and while work had been previously good for these guys it now had halved overnight.”

This was evidence of “the true dystopian nature” of Uber as a “dreadful employer,” he added.

“They pick and choose who, when and where they want the work to go. Last week it was car drivers, this week it is cyclists and scooter riders.

“There’s no process to inform people that they are about to lose income which will drastically affect their ability to pay rent and support their families,” Kaine said.

“There is no minimum rate, no compensation over lost earnings and so these drivers are being thrown on the Uber scrap heap. This is the reality of the gig economy: it is destroying lives and the Federal Government is standing by and allowing it to happen.”

People have made capital investments to set themselves up to work for Uber, Kaine added.

“For a while everything is fine and then without warning their work literally dries up.”

‘There have been no changes’: Uber Eats responds

In a statement to Yahoo Finance, an Uber spokesperson said:

“The union’s claims are based on a survey of 67 people. We value our relationship with the tens of thousands of delivery partners using the Uber Eats app and work closely with them to help ensure their experience is a rewarding one.

“There have been no changes to the way delivery partner earnings are calculated, which continues to include a pick-up fee, drop-off fee, and a per-kilometre distance calculation.

“While earnings vary depending on when and where partners choose to deliver, we work with delivery partners to provide additional information about ways to maximise their potential earnings.

“We want to continue to offer a better experience, with more support and benefits through our app for driver and delivery partners across Australia.

“Delivery partners tell us they value the freedom of being their own boss. They want to choose if, when and where they deliver.

“In fact, more than 90 per cent of delivery partners in Australia tell us that flexibility to log on and off whenever and wherever you want is the key reason they use the Uber Eats app. Most also use the app to supplement other income.”

The TWU survey results follow TWU’s appeal of a decision by the Fair Work Commission to dismiss a claim by a sacked UberEats driver on the basis that she was an independent contractor, not an employee.

Gig economy workers should be given rights to minimum rates, sick leave, workers’ compensation as well as other workplace rights, Kaine argued last month.

Uber also recently announced a trial of a new pricing model that would see Aussies charged more during peak hour and for food that has to travel further.

Uber Eats also recently pledged to amend its “unfair” contract terms that now sees Uber Eats, not the restaurant, take responsibility for damage that occurs during delivery. The change comes after an ACCC investigation.

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