Posts by BenWilson

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  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Just don't call me Caesar. Also, annoyingly, I can't find the Orangutan's comeback, it's very apposite to my current situation. He looks down to a couple of chimps brawling over a banana (while he and Caesar are having this deep and meaningful) and says "Apes stupid".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to goforit,

    its the people who drive for Uber whom are non compliant with the Act

    I've never said any different. What I think you're not getting is that Uber themselves are not reachable because they are not an ATO. They don't even pretend to be an ATO in NZ. They simply ignore any requirements relating to that outright. They specifically claim not to be a transport organization at all.

    Until the recent changes, they did this by putting the whole onus on proxies - either the PSL conduits, or drivers holding their own PSLs. Now, they can't even be arsed to do that, so unreachable have they become. It is clear from the inertia of the NZTA in this, that they literally have no place to grasp. I don't know why because the NZTA will never explain, other than to say that they have no option. If you know better than the people running the NZTA what their powers, brief and mandate are, please give me as much information as you have, and I'll press them, and encourage any and every other person who wants to as well.

    Sure, it's possible that there's some massive scandal going on here, a government backhander. I'm not really conspiratorial enough to believe that. I think it's more that the NZTA really is telling the truth, that they have no answer to what Uber is doing. It's not in their jurisdiction. If it is a conspiracy, then I'm pretty sure that we'll be shining a bright torch on it pretty damned soon. Whichever politicians want that free shot can go for broke, one at a time, or all together. My own feeling is that at the moment we want to exhaust the non-partisan line first, because political division over our rights would be likely to harm them more. I want the government to be able to back down if they are in some dodgy conspiracy, and to do so without egg on their faces, but instead hurrying to help us out.

    If they don't, however, and the window is closing fast on that, make no mistake, I fully intend this to be something that blows up in Nationals face right in the middle of an election year. For now, however, there's no evidence of wrongdoing beyond the bizarre inertia to enforcing NZ law that has been going on.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…,

    TBH I think the contract is a front. It's not actually ever signed or agreed to by anyone. I don't even think Uber want to be held to it. It's a front to give the appearance that people who are essentially working outside of any formal arrangement at all are, in fact, contractors.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    do they expect the drivers to be picking up tips with each trip ?

    No, quite the opposite. Even in America, they make it very clear that tips are not to be asked for and are not built into the pricing. You can tip, of course, and I’m yet to hear of the driver that would be offended to be tipped, it being quite literally the only way to reward them at all, since the rating system’s highest setting is “Acceptable”. There is no bonus system of any kind whatsoever for being a good driver. There is only the threat of completely arbitrary termination of your job when your rating falls below 4.5. There being no comeback or recourse of any kind whatsoever available to a driver, they naturally want to receive only 5 stars, or nothing at all.

    As far as I can tell, it’s a stretch to even call us independent contractors. The contract that I can find, which I don’t recall ever being asked to sign, and which carries no signature or any other proof of authenticity from Uber, explicitly removes every possible right, including even the jurisdictional right for the contract to be subject to NZ law. We are, apparently, subject to the laws of the Netherlands. I presume that means the country in Europe, rather than some new realm in cyberspace, but it’s really quite impossible to be sure. It’s an amazing document really, I’m quite glad I made a copy of it. It would be hard to find a more convincing document of the sick nature of neoliberal contract mentality.

    It begins with a long preamble about how they are not supplying a transport service at all, that they are merely a software organization supplying “leads” to the drivers. This goes on for several paragraphs to make the point really clear that they can’t possibly be held to account for anything that happens to anyone at all for anything anytime anywhere anyhow. Then it proceeds to spend the rest of the document outlining the specific nature of their transport system and how they have complete and total control over everything you do whilst driving for them. You can’t refuse the “leads” without risking termination. You can’t take any “lead” as a personal customer. You will never know the destination the “lead” wants to go to until you accept the sale. You will drive exactly how the customer wants. You will be polite, blah, blah, blah…on it goes for page after page of the rules of how their taxi service works.

    So what are we? Contractors or employees? Or perhaps, peons? I don’t really know.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to goforit,

    I think it's unfair to suggest that they are dealing with the same problem. Uber is not a holder of any kind of transport license in NZ. They have been extremely careful not to be. Which leaves NZTA with only victims to bust. I think they've shown clemency, if anything, an admirable quality. Because the people they have to bust are literally people with nothing.

    I don't know what other agency has the power to reach out and touch Uber itself. IRD? The MoT? At this point, we're left with pursuing justice the only way that is left for private citizens to do so, when the authorities either can't or won't do it, which is through prosecution on our own behalf. We will do it, but obviously it's not going to happen at the speed that a government agency with a huge budget and lawyers on the payroll could act.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to goforit,

    Hi Ben, I see you and your cause is back in the news.

    Getting in the news hasn't really been difficult. What's really difficult is getting on with the business at hand, the legal process of society formation and building a case. It costs money and time, neither of which I have. Also, getting the data, which Uber has on tap, is a lengthy process. The other people working on it have been awesome too, there's a small team of highly committed people. But pretty soon we are going to hit the wall where we have to raise funds. Lots and lots of funds.

    Presumably every fledgling worker group is beset like this at the start.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Sacha,

    Yes, I certainly don't want to ever convey the idea that NZTA is somehow on the side of Uber. They would seem to be exerting such powers as they have. Which would seem to be nowhere near enough, in this situation. They don't have the power to prosecute a company for violating the taxi/private hire service laws of the country when in a legal sense Uber disavows even being such a thing, and has no legal presence as such at all in this country. It operates entirely through proxies, and for the most part those proxies are the drivers themselves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…,

    I modeled in simulation what would be required to slip below the dreaded 4.5 from my own rating of 4.88. If the distribution that my rating must be based on is a "real" underlying distribution of what riders would think of my service then I have effectively a near zero chance of ever slipping below 4.5 from random variation. But anyone towards the bottom of the 4.5-5.0 range (which, you will note, rounds to 5, and is effectively synonymous with what "5 star service" actually means on even the most pernicious measure, let alone more sensible measures), has quite a high chance of losing their right to work just from the random variation that can happen in who they pick up. A few one stars in a row would do it. The driver could have one bad night where they were feeling not particularly pleased with passengers, and let it slip through the carefully erected mask of bonhomie/servitude, and bang, there goes their job.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…,

    Or, as another driver put it: We give 5 star service for 1 star pay.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    For reference, btw, I know Arden, who is quoted in that article. He has the most extreme rating of any driver I've yet seen, in the low 4.9s. He drives a late model Skoda with heated leather seats, always details it before rides, provides water, mints, newspapers. Dresses in a suit, opens the door for every passenger. This is a guy who goes well beyond the extra mile in customer services. For this, he gets well below minimum wage. This is the level of exploitation that Uber have engineered.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9843 posts Report Reply

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