NEW YORK taxi drivers’ union officials accused Uber of slapping workers in the face today after the company proposed adding an additional fee to already struggling cabbies.
Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi came under fire from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) after calling for the company’s drivers to contribute to a so-called “hardship fund” for yellow cab owner-drivers.
The union branded his recent visit to New York a “damage limitation” exercise for the company after a spate of suicides among taxi drivers.
NYTWA spokesman Bhairavi Desai said the company’s business model “has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of drivers across the industry, including green cab, yellow taxi, black car, livery, and app-dispatched drivers themselves.”
Mr Khosrowshahi is also lobbying for further deregulation in New York to push down fares across the industry to allow for “surge pricing” — which sees the cost of a ride increase in relation to demand.
The union — which represents 19,000 drivers in New York — explained they receive phone calls from members in the middle of the night needing referrals to homeless services and suicide prevention resources due to extreme levels of poverty.
"Uber has gone five years unregulated. And now there have been five tragic suicides of drivers facing financial ruin — two Bronx livery drivers, one black car driver and two yellow cab owner-drivers," Ms Desai warned.
Taxi driver Douglas Schifter shot himself in front of City Hall in February after posting a note on Facebook saying that the city's failure to regulate Uber had “destroyed his livelihood.”
The union says the deaths reveal the dark side of the gig economy and it is calling for tighter regulation of the app-based companies that have flooded the streets of New York with 130,000 vehicles while yellow cabs are capped by the authorities at 13,650.
Ms Desai branded the move by the Uber boss a “slap in the face” for drivers in a bid to avoid tougher regulation.
“We don't expect Uber or any corporation to have the moral authority on this issue, nor do they have expertise on sound policy.
“You don't ask the bull how to piece the china back together. Drivers have known what's broken all along and sent the warnings.
“This time, the city should listen,” she warned.
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