Driving change: New Zealand Uber drivers initiate collective bargaining

Through a union, over 500 New Zealand Uber drivers are pushing for better pay and working conditions through collective bargaining.
By: | February 16, 2023

Uber drivers in New Zealand are seeking improved compensation and working conditions through their first-ever collective agreement with the ride-hail company.

This comes after the national trade union First Union initiated collective bargaining with Uber. Under New Zealand employment law, a party that receives a notice to initiate bargaining is required to enter it, and a period of preparation on both sides will ensue before negotiations commence.

This marks the first time Uber will be required to work constructively with its drivers to reach an agreement on pay and conditions since the company’s arrival in New Zealand in 2014. More than 500 drivers have joined the union since the country’s Employment Court ruled last year that four Uber drivers were employees, not contractors.

The court case granted those drivers rights and protections, including minimum wage; guaranteed hours; sick leave; holiday pay; contributions to KiwiSaver, a voluntary savings scheme for retirement in New Zealand; the right to challenge an unfair dismissal; and the right to unionise and collectively bargain. While the ruling only applied to the four drivers in the class action lawsuit against Uber, it sets a precedent for defining employee status in the country based on how much control a company has over employees.

READ: New Zealand passes Fair Pay Bill to improve employment conditions

Uber has since lodged an appeal against the decision, which will be heard in April 2023.

Emma Foley, General Manager for Uber New Zealand, said, “This ruling underscores the need for industry-wide minimum standards for on-demand work while preserving the flexibility and autonomy that drivers tell us is important to them.”

She added that Uber would work collaboratively with the industry and the government throughout “the contractor policy reform process”, reported TechCrunch.