Transport giant Uber has withdrawn bonuses of up to $12,000 paid to some couriers who referred new workers to the service, claiming they were obtained fraudulently, but restored others that were cancelled in error.
Two riders who spoke to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age say they spent weeks signing up friends and acquaintances because the bonuses, worth up to $600 for each person referred, paid better than driving or riding. They are crushed the promised rewards have been cancelled.
“I’m very angry because Uber is a big company,” said driver Leong Heng Ooi through a Mandarin interpreter provided by the Transport Workers’ Union. “It’s a whole year’s earnings after I pay my rent and bills,” said Mr Ooi, who has received only $1200 of the $9600 in bonuses he estimates he has earned.
Other drivers reported their bonuses were repaid along with notes from the company such as: “The incorrect negative amount added, correcting it by a positive amount.”
Uber and other gig economy companies have come under pressure from Labor and the unions over classifying staff as independent workers who get more flexibility but lack a minimum wage, unfair dismissal protections, forums to quickly and easily challenge underpayments, and traditional workers’ compensation.
Under Uber’s bonus promotion, only people who had never driven for the delivery giant were eligible to be referred and they had to complete a minimum number of trips. Once someone met the conditions, both they and the referrer received up to $600 into their Uber app.
An Uber spokesman said an audit of the program had uncovered a small number of people who had claimed payments they weren’t entitled to. In these cases, it had suspended the app’s cash-out function and if the money had already been paid, it displayed a negative balance.
“Regrettably, there was also a small number of accounts that were identified in error. These accounts were subject to the same freeze on the referral incentives,” the spokesperson later added.