More than 100 Uber Black drivers strike against new Uber terms


More than 135 Uber Black drivers were out of work and on strike last Wednesday at Orlando International Airport when a new contractual agreement issued by Uber would cause them to breach another contract with the city of Orlando.

The new Uber agreement mandates that Uber Black drivers charge their customers $1.65 a mile, far below the $2.40 minimum set by a Orlando City ordinance. That rate was established by the city in 2014 because it was the same rate charged by taxis and would effectively level the playing field.

Uber Black drivers said Wednesday that they could face up to a $500 fine if they breached their contract with the city.

But for the residents striking at a parking lot south of Orlando airport, the new agreement didn’t just put them in legal limbo but added onto their already-heavy financial burden.

Uber Black drivers said their minimum charge for service was reduced to $11 from $20 by the new agreement. For example, if an Uber Black driver drove 20 miles with the new contract he would make $24 less than before, a reduction of about one-third in overall revenue for the driver, who still pays the same flat commission to Uber.

“It hits the pockets,” said Khalid Rafiq, an Uber Black driver of eight months.

In a written statement from Uber, the company said, “This change makes Uber more affordable at Orlando International Airport, resulting in more trips for drivers. Over the coming weeks, we will monitor effects of this change carefully and will make sure these prices are working for both riders and drivers.”

Because Uber Black offers a luxury-type service that’s more expensive than standard Uber, its drivers had been able to charge the higher rate competitive with traditional taxis. It is the only Uber service that can take arriving passengers from the airport to their destination.

For Uber, the new price cuts are about boosting demand for a service that has seen little action at the airport, where it operates.

Many Uber Black drivers shared their stories of working long hours and making little trips. Fernando Cruz Jr. worked 164 hours in a single week and got 21 trips. That’s an average of about one trip every eight hours.

“Sometimes we endure waiting 10 hours for a single ride, but we put up with it for the busy season,” Rafiq said.

For Uber Black drivers, the new price reductions add to the burden of having to pay $5,000 annually on commercial car insurance and the requirement of “a certain kind of vehicle,” such as a BMW or Lexus, to be an Uber Black Driver.

Uber Black drivers reached out to the city, but had not heard anything back about the ordinance by Wednesday afternoon.

“The city of Orlando is 100 percent focused on Hurricane Matthew right now,” said Cassandra Lafser, a spokeswoman for Orlando. “We will look into that, obviously, when time permits.”

View the original article here Orlando Sentinel