[By Tony Mcauley]
NEW ORLEANS — Uber Technologies and Lyft have both said they will offer ride hail drivers some pay if they catch the new coronavirus and are forced to take time off, but both companies decline to explain how it would work and how much a sick driver might expect to be paid.
The two companies that dominate the ride hail application market have in the past week issued guidelines for their drivers on how to deal with the coronavirus scare, which includes policies that require them to be removed from the app if they come down with COVID-19.
However, the new sick pay guidelines amount only to short statements from the companies.
Lyft’s policy was just one sentence that said the company would “provide funds” to a driver that has been diagnosed and can show proof from a doctor or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they are quarantined.
Lyft’s spokesperson for policy matters, Campbell Matthews, said the company would not provide any further information about how it works.
Similarly, Uber’s statement from Andrew Macdonald, Senior Vice President of Rides and Platform, was general: “Drivers and delivery people in these situations (diagnosed positive) will receive financial assistance for a period of up to 14 days.”
But Uber also declined to provide any details about how drivers would have to apply for the help or how it would be calculated and paid.
An Uber official, who didn’t want to be quoted by name, said that the company actually still hasn’t finalized details of how it would work but was weighing some kind of formula based on drivers’ average earnings via the platform.
The companies both also decline to provide any more details to drivers who have asked for more information via their chat network, according to several who have tried.
The issue is important for ride share drivers as they face a sharp downturn in business, especially in New Orleans which is particularly dependent on the travel and tourism industry.
They must now face the growing prospect of contracting the virus at the same time that they see declining earnings as business contracts.
On Friday, drivers on Uber Drivers of New Orleans on Facebook were looking forward to the potential business from Tulane University students heading to the airport to get out of town this weekend, after classes there — as at other universities and schools throughout the country — were suspended because of the virus.
But they also were lamenting the expected decline in business after a slew of New Orleans music and cultural events were cancelled, as well as business conventions and travel and tourism in general for at least the next two months.
They noted also more bad news for Uber drivers expecting to get a clearer update from the company on sick-pay policy and other matters: Uber on Friday shut down its new Greenlight Hubs for at least the next four weeks.
Greenlight Hubs, a place where drivers can go in their area to meet a company representative face-to-face, were started as an answer to Uber drivers’ frequent complaint “that it can be very difficult to get a problem solved or a question answered,” as the company said.