Taxi drivers and operators stopped work in major cities across Australia on September 10 in protest against Uber, which taxi drivers say is running an illegal, unregulated service.
In Sydney, hundreds of taxi drivers protested against Uber outside NSW Parliament. NSW Taxi Operators and Drivers Association president Anne Turner told Green Left Weekly: "We are here today to save our livelihoods."
In Melbourne, more than 1000 people rallied outside Parliament House, then marched on the Victorian Taxi Services Commission.
The focus of the rallies was against deregulation. Turner said taxi drivers were forced to compete on an uneven playing field with Uber, which is illegal and unsafe. Uber is uninsured and does not pay the same taxes or fees as taxi drivers.
NSW Transport Workers Union (TWU) Secretary Michael Aird told the Sydney rally that drivers moving to Uber were "basically swapping a bad boss for a worse one".
“Taxi drivers on average earn about $10 per hour and there’s no penalty rates for nights, weekends and public holidays. That’s $7.29 an hour less than the current federal minimum wage and it’s no surprise these low levels of pay are directly linked to poor safety and service outcomes.
“Uber is not the cause of or the solution to the industry’s problems. It just provides for a further decline in standards of safety and fairness for taxi drivers.”
The TWU has pointed out that Uber drivers are not guaranteed any level of income. They do not receive any of the protections traditionally extended to employees and some other workers. The union says Uber's claim that it is a “technology company” and not an employer of drivers misrepresents the reality of the Uber drivers' position.
Uber drivers are not people operating their own businesses, but are enmeshed entirely in the Uber business. Work is allocated to them by Uber and fees are collected by Uber.
The Sydney rally demanded the Minister of Transport Andrew Constance come out of Parliament House and address the crowd. But, when he failed to show, the protestors declared a one-day, NSW-wide taxi strike on September 21.
Victorian Taxi Families spokesperson David Singh was reported as saying: "Next week it will be rolling strikes throughout Australia, we can’t wait a day longer. We won't say what day, but it could be at the airport or in Melbourne's CBD."