Uber is exploiting us – by design


A report released today by FIRST union, E tū and the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research estimates that, in 2020 alone, Uber failed to pay taxes of $6.4 to 12.8 million.

A previous report Gig Work in Aotearoa: Challenges and Options highlighted the effects on people working in the gig economy. They deliberately sidestep employment standards in order to make more profit. Research shows that gig workers’ employment is precarious, and they are financially worse off than other workers.

These companies are manipulating the system at every level.

As the union for people working in public and community services, these findings cut to the very core of the work we do.

When any company, agency or rich individual decides to undermine workers’ rights and avoid paying their fair share of tax, it directly impacts our members and their ability to provide vital services to our communities.

Working people

Workers in the gig economy miss out on holiday pay, sick leave, KiwiSaver contributions and more. They can’t join a union or collectively negotiate for better wages and conditions. They can’t challenge an unfair dismissal.

Gig work is not the cool ‘side hustle’ gig companies would have us believe. It’s being done by workers who are struggling to make ends meet, with families to support, and rent and bills to pay.

In New Zealand we have an expectation that everyone has access to fundamental rights at work. ‘Gig work’ is often short term and temporary, and is almost always through online apps for ridesharing, delivery driving, and online based work like software development.

This work is extremely precarious and those doing the work are not considered to be employees by those in charge of the business.

Tax theft

Taxes are the contribution we all make to fund the public and community services and infrastructure our nation depends upon. Our education system, our health and hospitals and our social safety nets are all worse off when companies like Uber don’t pay their fair share.

Tax avoidance ultimately means that people’s access to high-quality services they have a right to receive and need is limited.

It’s not fair and it’s not right.

The solutions

PSA supports the recommendations of the CICTAR and union report.

It is the government’s responsibility to make sure companies who do their business in New Zealand pay their taxes in New Zealand and uphold the rights and dignity of working people.

The onus is on government to ensure the Inland Revenue Department is sufficiently staffed and resourced by dedicated public servants who can investigate routine tax avoidance by multinationals and high-net-worth individuals.

It is within the government’s powers to require full reporting from Uber and other ‘platform’ or ‘gig’ multinationals on the total payments from end users, service fees paid by workers, number of workers employed (even though they call them “contractors”), total hours worked and full disclosure of all offshore related party transactions.

The European Union already requires multi nation companies to report country by country. We can do the same.

A country that thrives

It’s not a pipe dream to want good, safe working conditions and decent pay for all working people, and a tax system that makes sure multi nationals and high net individuals pay their fair share of tax.

Everybody needs to play their part in building an equitable, thriving Aoteroa New Zealand – and that includes Uber.