Uber is trying to make tipping work in Australia — and it’s making people mad


US-headquartered Uber wants to make tipping work in Australia.

The ride-sharing giant pushed an update to both it’s Uber and Uber Eats applications yesterday, enabling the tipping functionality for Australian users.

The feature is nothing the company doesn’t already offer overseas, but, perhaps predictably, news of an American business trying to export the American custom Down Under went down like a lead balloon online.

“This will, of course, enable Uber to further exploit its employees by shifting the blame for not earning enough onto the workers themselves,” one Reddit user said in a popular thread which received thousands of upvotes on Thursday evening.

“I don’t get tipped for closing helpdesk tickets with flair. Tipping is crap. Employers should just pay their employees a fair wage and if that means putting the price up then so what? It’s worked here forever,” another said.

Pouring fuel on the fire, Uber has previously been criticised for the pay and conditions it offers to Australian drivers.

Uber has a sub-contractor arrangement with its drivers, which has sparked an ongoing debate about labour casualisation in recent years.

In August last year, drivers across the country stopped work in protest of Uber’s pay and conditions, calling for it to axe a decision to move to up-front pricing and instead go back to charging for time and distance travelled.

“No need for tipping”

Tipping is additional revenue for drivers, however, the American-style custom has been interpreted as a poor substitute for actual improvements to driver pay.

“We strongly believe if they were paying a fair and sustainable rate there would be no need for tipping,” Les Johnson, secretary of the Ride Sharing Drivers Association, tells SmartCompany.

Johnson says drivers were not consulted on the introduction of tipping, a habit for Uber, he claims, citing its overnight implementation of a driver pay cut several years ago.

Back in 2016, Uber cut the per-kilometre rate for UberX drivers to $1 in most jurisdictions, and while there have been subsequent increases since then, Johnson says it’s not enough.

Some drivers also expressed concern on social media the introduction of tipping will result in a flurry of new drivers joining the platform trying to make a quick buck.

“There’s already an over-saturation of drivers in every jurisdiction in Australia currently,” Johnson says.

“They’re destroying industries to make themselves look good.”

‘Showing appreciation’

A spokesperson for Uber said it has “often heard” from drivers and customers asking for an “opportunity to show their appreciation for great service”.

“Driver and delivery partners often go the extra mile to offer exceptional service, but until now there wasn’t an option for riders and eaters to reward this other than providing a five-star rating with compliments on Uber or thumbs-up on Uber Eats,” the spokesperson said.

“This is a small step we’re taking to help riders and eaters celebrate the driver partners and delivery partners who go the extra mile in their own special ways, via an easy and meaningful way to say ‘cheers’ for a job well done.”

Australia’s industrial relations landscape varies greatly to that in the US and other markets, with modern awards enshrining relatively high minimum pay rates.

Uber and competitor Deliveroo have worked around this by employing drivers as sub-contractors, but this has drawn criticism from unions, who claim the platforms are exploiting workers.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has been particularly critical, claiming drivers aren’t paid enough and suffer from poor working conditions. The union held a summit earlier this month in Canberra to discuss how the gig economy could be worked into a new “legislative framework”.

“Tipping should never be an excuse to justify cutting wages or avoid paying the entitlements that every Australian worker deserves,” TWU Queensland said via social media yesterday.

“It’s just not Australian.”

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the wordmistress
2 years ago

What a load of garbage, it’s all spin on the part of Uber.

“This is a small step we’re taking to help riders and eaters celebrate the driver partners and delivery partners who go the extra mile in their own special ways, via an easy and meaningful way to say ‘cheers’ for a job well done.”

No, how about everyone just does their job and receives fair and reasonable remuneration for it? Having visited the US a couple of times, I think it’s dodgy (on the employer’s part) that wait staff have to depend on customers for tips. In a restaurant in Arizona, I was presented with a bill folder which contained a message explaining America’s tip culture and how important it was for customers to support and acknowledge good service with a tip. Imagine if I had written back and said: “Well I’m Australian and we pay our workers properly and meanwhile, I ALSO have to pay 30% on top of the bill due to the AUD/USD exchange rate. How about you let me off with a 30% discount and I’ll happily pay your unfair and unreasonable tips?”

Trying to introduce a tip culture in Australia is just rude. Here, we tip if we feel we received exceptional service, and even then, it’s rare. The person cleaning the toilets in the restaurant is not getting a tip and I’m sure they’re working every bit as hard. It just doesn’t make sense and tourism and hospitality business owners have no right to expect their customers to pay their staff. Why aren’t tips expected at medical centres, clothing stores, supermarkets or car rental agencies?

Uber is a greedy little monster getting greedier by the day, and to be honest, their service is not that great! I won’t be ‘celebrating’ my next delivery driver even if I do order through Uber Eats again. This is just another way for bigger-than-its-boots Uber to rip off delivery partners, restaurant partners and customers in a new way.

2 years ago

Yes, tipping is demeaning. What adult person can sit there and ask/wait for a tip? In Australia? Employers should pay for the job and price wares accordingly.