Last Thursday November 12th saw Uber drivers take to the streets to protest, for the first time in London, outside Uber’s palatial offices in Aldgate Tower. The public protest has been a long time coming considering we have suffered three price cuts, the imposition of an incomprehensible 22 page contract, a flooding of the market with more drivers than there is work for and now an increase in commission for Uber X drivers. Add to this the standard practice of Uber making unauthorized & unexplained income deductions, an increase in network charges, summary dismissals and complete neglect of drivers assaulted on the job.
The commission increase is an especially cruel blow right now and will cost new drivers an additional £50 – £70 per week. It comes at a time when Uber are continuing to aggressively on board new drivers with referral offers of up to £500 per head. It’s cruel because Uber are continuing to mislead drivers and the general public about how much money can be made in this game. It’s cruel because it lures people into debt to rent and finance vehicles they will struggle greatly to make pay. Its cruel because any driver who enters the Uber world will need to work excessive hours as the only possible way to cover costs and earn an income.
In August this year Uber bowed to the Advertising Standards Authority and withdrew internet advertising giving an overly rosy picture of potential driver earnings. Just last month Uber’s latest in a line of Communications Chiefs told the BBC Today programme that drivers took home £48,000 per annum. Jo Bertram has quoted the same number as £35,000. Last week the Uber spin machine, at full tilt because of the protest said the net income for drivers after commission is £16 per hour and this is, apparently, something they ‘look at very carefully.’
So where is the crisis? Let me break it down as simply as I can. The following image comes from this week’s weekly driver report from Uber.
First thing to note is that even the so called top drivers don’t make £16 per hour net, they barely make just over £15 per hour after commission is deducted from the notional £19 per hour figure. With the commission hike of 5% this figure drops to just over £14 per hour, £2 shy of what Uber says drivers make after commission. And remember, these are just the ‘top drivers’, it doesn’t even represent what average drivers make.
Now let’s take a look at typical operating costs to calculate a net take home figure.
Yes, even Uber’s ‘top drivers’ – using Uber’s own numbers and conservative, verifiable operating costs – cannot reach the minimum wage threshold. It falls short by £1.02 per hour or 15% below minimum wage.
Uber will say that driver operating models vary greatly and it’s up to us to control costs. But that just isn’t the case. The largest typical cost item is car rental and the £270 pcw figure above comes from PCO Rentals, an approved supplier listed in the Uber Marketplace. £100 per week in fuel is a more than reasonable estimate and the rest of the costs are self explanatory. These are typical costs for thousands of drivers no matter how hard Uber try to spin otherwise.
Also consider that the hours calculated here are just the logged in hours and total on the road hours including positioning, rest breaks, fueling, cleaning etc are likely to be another 30% which further dilutes even these best case figures.
Yet besides the obvious driver financial deprivation, long hours and increasingly congested streets, rather than suspend or slow down on boarding or raise prices – Uber adds to the suffering by making a grab for another 5% commission.
There is much more to say about last Thursday’s events and Uber’s refusal to engage in any meaningful discussion with drivers on pay. I will get to that soon. For now, I just wanted to explain why we drivers, in large numbers, finally took to streets last week. I have a feeling we’ll be back on the streets again very soon.