Rideshare Drivers Underpaid, Harassed, Sexually Assaulted: Survey

A survey of more than 1100 rideshare drivers found 969 reports of harassment or abuse.

According to the Transport Worker's Union and Rideshare Driver Co-operative survey,  one in ten drivers said they had experienced physical assault and six percent had been sexually assaulted.

Physical and sexual abuse was listed by drivers as one of the biggest issues they face when driving, alongside racism, damage to property and lack of support from the companies, including account deactivation.

Raul, who has worked full-time for a rideshare company for the last three years, is just one of many drivers who said he was attacked while on the job.

Raul said in June he was bashed in the face through his open driver-side window while picking up a passenger at around midnight on a Saturday night.

Image: Supplied to Ten Eyewitness News

Raul said the assault occurred because he refused to pick the passenger up from the middle of the road so as not to block traffic behind him.

He said the customer then began kicking his vehicle, forcing Raul to step out to check on his car before he was punched again.

He said nearby taxi drivers who witnessed the incident rushed to his aid and called police. Raul said he started having problems with his eyes a couple of weeks later.

"Suddenly I started to see everything double. I had double vision in my left eye and I was admitted to Northern Hospital in Epping and I was there for nine days," Raul said.

"I was traumatised, like what do I do now? Do I keep on working?"

Raul was unable to work for nearly three months following the incident but said the only thing he received from his employer was an apology and a box of chocolates.

Approximately 60 percent of participants in the TWU survey said they drove for a rideshare company because they needed the money and it was a flexible gig.

Only 35 percent said they drove because they enjoyed it.

But 85 percent said they were not satisfied by their earnings, with drivers earning $16 an hour on average.

According to the survey, half of rideshare drivers work full time and 67 percent of those earn below the Australian Bureau of Statistics' average weekly wage of $1,586.

The Union said 97 percent of its respondents worked for Uber, while others worked for newcomers Ola (46 percent), Taxify (26 percent) and DiDi (22 percent). Many drivers work for multiple companies.

In a statement to Ten Eyewitness News, a spokesperson for Uber responded to the survey saying it was committed  to the safety of its drivers.

"We continue to work on promoting the safe use of our app and tackling tough issues with safety experts and leading organisations in Australia," the spokesperson said.

“When a rider or a driver-partner makes any allegation, Uber's 24/7 incident response team will investigate both sides and take any necessary action.”

Last month Uber also unveiled a series of new safety features following a string of reported incidents, including an in-app emergency assistance button for both riders and drivers.

The rideshare giant said it had run its own survey last month of over 1700 Australians who had driven for Uber, claiming its drivers overwhelmingly responded that flexibility was the key reason they chose to work for the company.

The company said its survey also found 79 percent reported they would be unlikely to continue driving with Uber if they had to drive fixed shifts.

READ MORE: Uber Launches 'Safety Tool Box' Following Spate Of Alleged Incidents

But the co-operative's Emmett D'Urso said rideshare companies needed to do more for their drivers.

"Drivers want to be paid a fair rate, we want protections against threats and assaults and we want to go to work and know our company will not sack us without giving us a right of reply," D'Urso said.

The Transport Workers' Union's Tony Sheldon said the "shocking and disturbing" survey results reveal the true nature of the on-demand economy, where drivers are being ripped off and and offered no support.

"What's going on is eighteenth century exploitation via an app."

With AAP.