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Taxi drivers win nearly $179 million in compensation from Uber in Australia

London CNN  —  Uber will pay more than 8,000 taxi and hire car drivers in Australia almost 272 million Australian dollars ($179 million) in compensation for losses they suffered after the ride-sharing giant entered the country in 2012, lawyers representing the drivers said Monday. The settlement is the fifth-largest in Australia’s history, according to Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, the law firm that filed the class action suit in 2019. Uber confirmed in a statement that it had reached an agreement in principle but did not comment on the details of the proposed settlement. “This case succeeded where others have failed,” Maurice Blackburn said on its Facebook page. “We’re proud that thousands of people put their faith in us to deliver this outcome, and to hold Uber to account.” Uber has faced serial litigation around the world since its launch in 2009, including from passengers, governments and its own drivers. It has also made “significant contributions to various state-level taxi compensation schemes” in Australia since 2018, according to the company. The bitter feuds between Uber drivers and conventional taxi operators have subsided in recent years, as the company has steadily gained regulatory approval to operate in countries around the world. Uber now teams up with taxi drivers in many countries. In November, it announced a partnership with London’s iconic black cabs to give cab drivers access to Uber trip referrals. The lawsuit in Australia alleged that Uber had operated illegally in four of the country’s six states — Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia — using vehicles and drivers without the necessary licenses and accreditations. “This caused loss of income to authorized taxi drivers and operators, and hire car operators. It also resulted in a drop in the value of taxi licenses,” said Elizabeth O’Shea, principal lawyer for class actions at Maurice Blackburn, in a video posted to the firm’s website. A queue of black cabs outside Victoria Station in London in November 2020. Victoria Jones/PA Images/Getty Images Related article Uber announces partnership with London’s iconic black cab taxis “The law then changed in these states to make Uber’s business legal going forward,” she added. In a statement on its website, Uber Australia said ride-sharing regulations did not exist anywhere in the world when it launched more than a decade ago. “Today is different, and Uber is now regulated in every state and territory across Australia, and governments recognize us as an important part of the nation’s transport mix,” the company added. “With today’s proposed settlement, we put these legacy issues firmly in our past.” While this case may now be in the rearview mirror, Uber faces ongoing lawsuits in the United States and elsewhere over how it classifies its drivers. In its latest annual report, the company said its business would be “adversely affected” if drivers were reclassified as employees or workers, rather than independent contractors. In 2021, Uber was forced to reclassify tens of thousands of its drivers in the United Kingdom as “workers,” following a UK Supreme Court ruling. The change means drivers are entitled to a minimum wage, vacation time, and a pension. Last year, meanwhile, New York Attorney General Letitia James ordered Uber to pay $290 million into a settlement fund after it emerged that the company had withheld certain pay from drivers and prevented them from receiving some benefits available under New York labor laws. Rival Lyft was made to pay $38 million into a similar fund.