Regulation of commercial labour pool platforms (Uber, AirBnB etc)

DS Danyl Strype Public Seen by 314

The government is currently rolling out regulations for governing Uber drivers in NZ. There have also been calls (probably by hospitality businesses) to regulate AirBnB. This is perfect area for Pirates to be making public comments on. As with copyright and patent issues, decision-makers often don't understand the technology or its social implications like we do.

Uber's PR seems to be based around claiming that their app is akin to a non-commercial ride-sharing website/ app, and no doubt if challenged, AirBnB will claim their app is akin to non-commercial couchsurfing sites. They also claim that the people doing the work from which they earn their revenue are not "workers" but "private contractors". This is the same claim the movie industry made about people working fulltime for companies like Weta. It moves all the employer obligations (paying tax, paying ACC etc etc) onto the worker, who can least afford it, and removes all worker rights protections (minimum wage, paid sick leave and holidays etc). Uber's relationship to NZ-based drivers is therefore akin to Nike's relationship to sweatshop workers in China (see documentary China Blue), they give back less to people for their work than a McDonalds does.


Andrew McPherson Sun 27 Mar 2016 11:09AM

I'd like to note that Uber was banned from several major Indian cities for employing rapists as drivers, given recent news from the Vic Deals facebook group, I'd say there is a fair chance that dodgy drivers are working for Uber in Wellington.
AirBnB would seem to be even more prone to abuse.
I frankly regard both of these app based companies as little more than sweatshops that only the perverse actually appreciate working for.
I would never recommend either to any female friend or relative, and prefer the safety of a registered taxi with a P license, and don't mind paying a dollar more for a safe ride.
I would also never recommend AirBnB, as it is fundamentally insecure and not private to stay in some stranger's home that hasn't been checked and reviewed by others.


Danyl Strype Thu 31 Mar 2016 7:13AM

To be fair, Uber don't "employ drivers", they let anyone with a vehicle use the app to find passengers, relying instead on the ratings/ abuse flagging systems to weed out bad actors. There have been a number of high profile cases of P-licensed taxi drivers raping passengers, so this is not ironclad protection either. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here.

I would like to see regulated taxi companies building some of the useful features of Uber/ Lyft into their business, eg ordering taxis with an app, choosing your driver with the help of ratings/ abuse flagging systems, tracking the taxi's progress towards your location etc. If they contract the running of that system out to Uber/ Lyft, that's their choice, although obviously I would prefer to see them use free code software and either employ someone to run the server, or contract a local company.

I would also never recommend AirBnB, as it is fundamentally insecure and not private to stay in some stranger's home that hasn't been checked and reviewed by others.

This is not the problem with AirBnB. I've used CouchSurfing and hosted plenty of strangers in my home, and would happily use it to find a place to stay if I visited another country. I have no problem with non-commercial systems where people can offer or ask for free goods or services (eg CrowdSurfing, FreeCycle, AskShareGive or timebanks), they don't seem to create the same issues. The problem is that the people offering their spare rooms to guests are effectively acting as the hospitality, management, and maintenance staff, without AirBnB having any employer obligations. All they do is roll out software updates and tax all these people's work.