Labour association to talk to Uber about changes to earnings incentive scheme

A labour association for private-hire drivers said it will speak to Uber about the start-up's recent changes to its earnings incentive scheme.
A labour association for private-hire drivers said it will speak to Uber about the start-up's recent changes to its earnings incentive scheme.ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN

SINGAPORE - A labour association for private-hire drivers said on Thursday (Oct 6) it will speak to Uber about the changes made recently by the start-up to its earnings incentive scheme.

The National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) said that since Saturday (Oct 1) - when Uber informed its drivers of the changes - it has "received feedback from numerous drivers who expressed concern".

Incentives are monetary payments Uber hands out to drivers on top of their fare takings, to encourage them to drive on its platform.

While the previous scheme guaranteed drivers a minimum hourly earning for fulfilling criteria such as completing a certain number of trips, Uber on Monday (Oct 3) overhauled the system to an "earnings boost" scheme.

Under it, fares are multiplied by a variable number, for trips within "hotspots", where passenger demand is high, and during specific periods of the day.

In a statement, the association said drivers "feel that the two-day notice period given to them is insufficient for them to adjust their driving strategies".

However, an Uber spokesman told The Straits Times it had announced the new incentive structure about three weeks ago, at a monthly roundtable session with drivers.

A pilot run of the scheme, which yielded positive feedback, was also carried out before it went live, the spokesman added.

He said the new scheme provides "more consistency and transparency", as drivers can track their current performance in their apps and also see their incentives earnings after every trip.

The NPHVA, which is supported by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said it hopes Uber will give "due consideration" to the plight of new drivers who could be affected by the changes.

These drivers, the association said, have entered into contracts to rent cars to drive for Uber, or have converted their personal cars for private-hire usage. They did this based on the previous incentive scheme and earning model, said the association.

While the NPHVA said it is contacting Uber to request a meeting, it also advised drivers to be "fully aware of the risks and pay-offs" in the industry.

Mr Chase Phang, 39, who drives part-time for Uber, said: "With the minimum hourly fare scheme, I could project how much I can earn. Now, the earnings are uncertain and I'm making about 30 to 40 per cent less for driving the same amount of time, of about three hours."

But Mr Phang said he is not unhappy about the drop in income, but rather, the abrupt change in the incentive programme, which he said is unfair to newcomers.

Uber said drivers can sign up daily for a face-to-face training session about the new incentive scheme, at its service centre in Paya Lebar.