Uber driver are workers not employees and Travis Kalanick should drive
The video of Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver is all over the media. Kalanick is seen talking with Uber driver Fawzi Kamel. The conversation between the man Forbes estimates to hold a net worth of over £5.1billion and the mini-cab driver runs like this:
TK: Good to see you man, thank you.
FK: Good to see you too. I don’t know if you remember me but it’s fine.
TK: So we are reducing the number of black cars on the system over the next six months.
FK: Yeah it’s good.
TK: Yeah you probably saw it on the email.
FK: I saw the email, it starts in May. It’s all about the rating but you, you’re raising the standard and dropping the prices.
TK: We’re not dropping the price on black cars.
FK: Yeah but in general.
TK: We have to, we have competitors. Otherwise we’d go out of business.
FK: But you have the business model in your hands, you could have the price as you want but you choose to buy everybody a ride.
TK: No, no, you’re misunderstanding. We started high end. We didn’t go low end because we wanted to, we went low end because we had to.
FK: Why? (Because of) Lyft?
FK: That’s a piece of cake right there.
TK: No, it seems like a piece of cake because I’ve beaten them. But if I didn’t do the things I did, we would have been deep (inaudible).
FK: Why? We could go higher and more expensive.
TK: So here’s the thing. Luxe is in San Francisco so I have guys working on Luxe which will be 15 to 17 percent more expensive than black…
FK: But people aren’t trusting you anymore. Do you think people will buy cars anymore? We’ll buy them through Europe and invoice, nobody wants to buy a car. I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you. You keep changing every day.
TK: Hold on a second, what have I changed about black?
FK: You dropped the prices.
TK: On black?
TK: Bulls***. Bulls***.
FK: We started with $20. How much is the mile now, 2.75?
TK: You know what, some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own s***. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck.
FK: Good luck to you too but I know you’re not going to go far.
Kalanick comes across as a greedy and rude swine.
Newsweek says this is just the latest episode in a company mired by a ‘dysfunctional culture, bad press, a sketchy financial outlook [and] dissatisfied employees’.
Is there a certain delight in hoping the mighty will fall? ‘Every time we take an Uber we’re spreading its social poison,’ says Laurie Penny in the Guardian.
Keep in mind she’s talking about catching a taxi when she writes:
What we’re dealing with here is a new class of bastard: the bro gone pro, the freewheeling post-Randian slimeball whose insecure sense of entitlement is the foundation of his business model… This matters because Uber is more than just a tech firm. It is a social engineering outfit masquerading as a tech firm… Here’s the awful truth: we have entrusted the reorganisation of our social infrastructure to the sort of people who shout at their subordinates and drivers and view women as a collection of parts. We do not owe these people our money or our admiration.
All that from hailing a car. And more!
It remains to be seen whether Uber will be damaged by the activist call for riders to please, for goodness sake, stop using this service. A great many people feel they have no option but to be complicit. Uber grew in the social sludge of American cities with patchy and precarious public transport provision and high unemployment. In areas where there are few late-running trains and taxis are unaffordable, taking an Uber home is the ethical equivalent of the greasy late-night kebab: you know it’s bad for you, but there’s a filthy, guilty pleasure in being able to meet your immediate animal needs. Your gut might make you answer for your midnight takeout, but it won’t kill you.
Using a service like Uber, however, is slow social poison. We are living in a socioeconomic reality whose driving philosophy can be accurately described by a sauced-up frat-boy in the back of a taxi, and we continue to venerate its winners. How much complicity can we tolerate before we get off this dodgy ride?
First world problems never got so important.
Another Guardian writer is conflicted. Sonia Sodha writes: ‘My finger has hovered over the delete button on more than one occasion. So far, I haven’t pressed it.’
And you thought President Trump had issues with that other button.
And then he looks at the fact – and gets them wrong:
The extent to which drivers are satisfied in the here and now is irrelevant to whether they are employees or self-employed in the eyes of the law, and the rights to which that entitles them. In a scathing ruling last year, an employment tribunal ruled that Uber drivers are, in fact, employees, because Uber exerts a degree of control over them – including dictating the price they can charge consumers – that should not exist between a company and its self-employed contractors.
Wrong. They are classed as ‘workers‘. Workers enjoy some of the rights of employees but not all. They also get a degree of flexibility, which many Uber river prefer.
Such are the facts.