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New York’s Uber drivers first to get minimum wage

As stated in the SMH on 5 Dec 2018,  New York City’s taxi and limousine commission has voted to set a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers, marking the first time a government in the United States has imposed wage rules on ride-hailing companies.

 

Under the new rules, which go into effect in January, companies are required to pay drivers $US26.51 ($36) an hour in gross pay, or $US17.22 after expenses. That’s slightly higher than the $US15 minimum wage that the city requires all employers to adhere to by the end of next year, but is considered equivalent because drivers are independent contractors.

 

About 85 per cent of ride-hailing drivers currently make less than the minimum, according to an independent analysis commissioned by the taxi and limousine commission (TLC). For those drivers, the new wages will amount to an average annual pay raise of more than $US6300.

Uber drivers have become a stand-in for a new kind of American worker, seen alternatively as micro-entrepreneurs with more flexibility than traditional wage-earners, or as powerless workers exposed to the full brutality of the free market.

Putting a floor under their earnings adds a level of financial security that has been notably lacking from the gig economy. But while New York is home to the largest pool of ride-hailing drivers in the country, it’s also an anomaly in several key ways that could keep the TLC’s rules from spreading to other cities.

 

According to Uber, 80 per cent of drivers in its 20 biggest markets work fewer than 35 hours a week, and more than half of its drivers shuttle passengers around for fewer than 15 hours a week. In New York, 60 per cent of the drivers are full-time.

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