Uber drivers in New Zealand will push for better wages and working conditions through their first-ever collective agreement with the company.
Earlier this week, the national union First Union started a collective labor agreement with Uber. Under New Zealand labor law, a party receiving notice to enter into negotiations is required to participate. There is a period of preparation on both sides before the parties come to the table to negotiate.
The start of collective bargaining marks the first time Uber has had to work constructively with drivers to reach an agreement on pay and benefits since the ride-hail company arrived in New Zealand in 2014.
More than 500 drivers joined the union after the country’s labor tribunal ruled last year that four Uber drivers were employees and not contractors, and Anita Rosentreter, strategic project coordinator at First Union, said more are joining every day. The landmark lawsuit granted those workers rights and protections, including minimum wage, guaranteed hours, sick leave, vacation pay, KiwiSaver (pension) contributions, the right to challenge unfair dismissal, and the right to associate and bargain collectively.
While the ruling only affected the four drivers in the class action lawsuit against Uber, it set a precedent for determining employee status in the country based on how much control a company has over employees.
At the time, the court ruled that Uber’s incentive schemes to reward consistency and quality and punish for violations of Uber guidelines or deviations in quality levels demonstrated significant control.
Uber has appealed the decision, which will be heard in April.
“We were disappointed by the recent decision of the Employment Court, especially given that the same court ruled in 2020 that a rideshare driver using the Uber app was not an employee, and have filed for leave to appeal, which was in April will be covered,” Emma Foley, general manager of Uber New Zealand, said in a statement. “This ruling underscores the need for industry-wide minimum standards for on-demand work, while maintaining the flexibility and autonomy drivers tell us are important to them.”
Foley said Uber would work with industry and government during “the contractor policy reform process.”