Uber Australia is settling unfair dismissal cases, despite insisting drivers are not employees

Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images.

Uber Australia is reportedly settling unfair dismissal claims lodged against it by “deactivated” drivers who have felt their exile was unjustified.

The AFR reports that, even though the company does not classify drivers as employees, it is not resisting unfair dismissal cases submitted to the Fair Work Commission to avoid its “contractor” relationships with drivers being officially tested.

In April, Rideshare Drivers Association of Australia filed an unfair dismissal case on behalf of a driver for the first time, according to the AFR, with Uber Australia settling for an undisclosed sum after negotiations in May.

The rideshare driver advocacy group is also currently seeing through two more such claims, with one of them on behalf of “one of Uber’s highest rated drivers” in the country.

Maurice Blackburn principal Kamal Farouque told Fairfax Media that the rideshare giant is likely settling to avoid having its “contractor” classification of relationship with drivers tested by the authorities. But the mere act of settling could be cancelling out that effect anyway.

“If you devise this elaborate model with what seems to me the express purpose to avoid employment regulation, it’s really not achieving its purpose if they’re settling claims and those claims are all contingent on it being an employment relationship.”

An Uber spokesperson said safety is “always a top priority” and that this can trigger a deactivation in certain cases.

“While these decisions are never made lightly, it is clear in our community guidelines that driver-partners can lose access to the app if they are violent or abusive towards riders.”

Uber has more than 60,000 drivers in Australia, which it explicitly calls “driver-partners” to push the point that they’re not employees.

Earlier this week, news broke that another driver advocacy group, Rideshare Drivers United, had initiated a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation to check if conditions for drivers meet federal industrial relations laws. The group is pushing for drivers to be classified and paid as casual workers, rather than contractors.

Read full story on the unfair dismissal claims at AFR.com.