On Saturday December 3 dozens of UberEats drivers protested outside Uber’s downtown Toronto office in response to steep cuts in the rates they receive for driving for the food delivery service.
The cuts are significant. The old rate structure offered up $6.50 for every order picked up at a restaurant which could add up quick if a driver was picking up multiple orders from one restaurant. Drivers were then paid $1.85 per kilometer.
The new rate structure features a flat rate of $2.90 for a pick up at a restaurant regardless of the number of orders. The rate per kilometer has been reduced to $1.05. There is a new rate of $2.50 for every order completed, however that can be an issue.
“With Uber it’s not like a typical delivery service where you show up and the customer is expecting you. Quite often a customer orders and forgets to change the address and they’re half way across the city or their cell phone is dead and you just can’t get a hold of them,” say David Heller an UberEats driver that participated in the protest. “There are times when Uber says you need to cancel the order and throw out the food. If that occurs under the new pay structure, we’re not going to get paid for our mileage to that delivery or the $2.50 for completing the order.
On top of these rate changes, Uber is still taking 25 to 35 percent of the money earned by drivers per order. UberEats drivers are looking at up to a 50 percent drop in their wages per order.
UberEats drivers, like taxi service Uber drivers, must pay for their own cars, maintenance, insurance, and gas. Because they are classified as independent contractors they must deduct their own HST and income tax.
Uber told Fortune that they will be introducing a “boost” feature that will pay more per order in certain areas of the city.
UberEats driver Olivia LeBihan told CBC that this boost feature still would leave drivers with 70 cents less per order. She said the boost still doesn’t make up for all their lost income.
But the wage cuts are not the only thing that Uber has been doing to upset their drivers.
“People don’t like doing long distance calls and they will decline orders, and Uber doesn’t like that. So they’ve now taken out the option in the app to be able to see where the delivery address is (until they accept the order), other drivers are telling me,” says Melissa Sananes, an UberEats driver who has participated in protests against the rate changes. “We have no idea where we’re going, we can’t map it to see if it’s worth it. We could drive 7 km to a restaurant then it’s a 650 meter drop, which would only make us like $4.”
The protesting UberEats drivers have already had two demonstrations at Uber’s Toronto office. At their second protest they were joined by dozens of Fight for $15 and Fairness campaigners who rushed over from their own demonstration at the Eaton Centre earlier in the day to support the drivers. Other drivers have also participated by having “black out” which means not being available to drive at an agreed upon time during a dinner rush on a specific day.
While Heller and Sananes have stopped driving for UberEats and refuse to do so until the old rates are restored, both say they are sensitive to and understand those that have to continue to do so because they have no other income source. More protests and “black outs” are in the planning stage until Uber agrees to discuss this issue with its drivers.
In fact many drivers literally had little choice to stop driving. Heller explains that on November 28 just after 7:00 p.m. an email and notification in the app drivers use to do their orders went out to UberEats drivers informing them of the rate changes and that these changes would take effect at midnight. Those drivers on the way to pick up an order or were taking an order to a customer had to agree to the changes on the app to be able to complete their order under the old pay rate.
“Uber seems to be a really sneaky company,” says Sananes. “Unless a lot of things change, I don’t think I’m going to be able to return to work for them.”
So far, Toronto is the second city where UberEats is available where drivers have had to take a pay cut. London, U.K. saw protests last summer over a similar cuts to rates.