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Uber adds tipping to its app after longstanding complaints from drivers

After years of refusing to let passengers tip through the app, Uber added tipping in three US cities after embattled CEO Travis Kalanick took a leave of absence

Uber is adding tipping to its platform, addressing a longstanding complaint of drivers with a new feature rolled out one week after embattled CEO Travis Kalanick announced an indefinite leave of absence.

The ride-hailing corporation launched tipping in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston on Tuesday, with plans for an expansion to all US drivers by the end of July. The company had refused for years to allow passengers to tip through the app, one of many sources of frustration for drivers, who have repeatedly raised concerns about low wages and a lack of basic labor rights.

The shift on tipping was included in Ubers announcement of the so-called 180 days of change for drivers, which the San Francisco-based firm billed as a company-wide effort designed to meaningfully fix and improve the driving experience.

Following months of embarrassing scandals and PR disasters this year including a major sexual harassment controversy and claims of a frat-house culture the company launched an investigation, fired more than 20 employees and this month announced reforms meant to improve the workplace.

But the vision of Uber 2.0, outlined in a recent all-hands meeting, largely ignored the concerns of drivers, who are classified as independent contractors and have continued to advocate for traditional job security and benefits.

The difficulties of working as a driver in the gig economy are so extreme that some have ended up homeless, forced to live out of their cars leased for Uber, according to a recent Guardian investigation. Female drivers assaulted on the job have also increasingly come forward, accusing the corporation of offering them little support during their recovery.

Tuesdays announcement appears to be a response to some of the backlash Uber has faced from drivers and labor groups that have fought for years to unionize drivers. The firm also announced a number of smaller changes meant to benefit drivers, including a more favorable system for cancellation fees when riders back out of trips, pay for wait times when passengers are delayed showing up, and a new option to purchase driver protection insurance.

Garrett Camp, Uber co-founder, also published a blogpost Tuesday, saying the company has not done a good job responding to drivers concerns: We must update our core values, listen better to employees and riders, and prioritize our drivers.

But some critics said the reforms were inadequate considering how Uber has cut wages over the years and built a business model that is fundamentally unsustainable for many drivers.

They just dont care about the drivers and if the drivers have enough money to feed their families or not, said Inder Parmar, a 55-year-old Uber driver. The New York City driver, who was part of a New York Taxi Workers Alliance lawsuit seeking to classify drivers as employees, said he expected many riders would not offer tips moving forward, given that Uber has for so long made it clear that they dont have to pay the extra cash.

Its long overdue. It shouldve been in place when Uber started. This is a service-oriented business and drivers depend on tips, he said.

Uber previously defended its policy by arguing that it was better for riders and drivers to know for sure what they would pay or earn on each trip without the uncertainty of tipping. The company claimed that it helped make the service hassle-free.

But drivers have long contended that the lack of a tipping feature was depriving them of wages they had a right to collect. Ubers competitor Lyft has a tipping option in its app.

The Independent Drivers Guild, an affiliate of the Machinists union that represents Uber drivers in New York, praised the decision on Tuesday, saying the new rule was an important first step toward a more fair ride-hail industry. Jim Conigliaro Jr, founder of the guild, added in the statement: Cuts to driver pay across the ride-hail industry have made tipping income more important than ever.

The reforms are coming into place a week after the departure of Kalanick, the controversial CEO who has repeatedly faced criticisms of disrespecting drivers and ignoring their criticisms. His firm has been accused of underpaying drivers, manipulating their movements with psychological tricks, duping drivers with false advertising and using smartphone sensors to monitor their actions.

Earlier this year, Kalanick was also caught on camera yelling with his own Uber driver, who complained about low wages, with the CEO saying: Some people dont like to take responsibility for their own shit They blame everything in their life on somebody else.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/20/uber-tipping-app-driver-rights-seattle-minneapolis

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