Uber CEO Says Requiring Vaccines for Drivers and Riders Would be Fair, But Not Happening

Uber CEO Says Requiring Vaccines for Drivers and Riders Would be Fair, But Not Happening
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi addresses the audience during the keynote at the start an Uber products launch in San Francisco, California on September 26, 2019. (Photo: Philip Pacheco / AFP, Getty Images)

There are two types of people in Uber’s world, according to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi: office workers and drivers. Besides differences in salaries and benefits, there will now be another factor that separates the two. Office workers will be required to get vaccines in order to go to work, but drivers will not.

In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Khosrowshahi detailed the reasoning behind Uber’s vaccination requirements. It was an “easy call” to require white collar workers to get vaccinated considering the health concerns, the variants, and the fact that they’re together in the office for between eight and 10 hours a day, Khosrowshahi explained. Uber told employees in late July that it would be pushing back its employees’ return to the office and mandate vaccination.

Yet, when it comes to drivers, it’s apparently not so easy to prioritise their health. While Khosrowshahi said it would only be “fair” to mandate vaccines for drivers and riders considering that they’re in a small space together, Uber hasn’t decided to do that. Instead, it has asked drivers to take precautions like wearing masks and leaving the windows open.

“It would only be fair to require vaccines for both riders and drivers,” Khosrowshahi said. “We’ve got over 100 million riders and drivers constantly moving around together on a monthly basis and we think that the push, which we completely support, should be for the government to get people vaccinated, everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible so we can get back to life.”

Khosrowshahi went on to elaborate that what Uber wasn’t comfortable with was mandating millions of people to get vaccinated. In comparison, the company has more than 22,000 employees. Many of its drivers are considered contractors.

“To put that responsibility, that kind of decision-making power, on a company, I don’t think is right. I think these mandates if they’re pushed should be pushed by local or federal governments, and that’s really the direction that we’re going with,” he said, adding that Uber would do its best to support any government mandate.

While I understand the hesitancy when it comes to requiring vaccines for riders given our customer-obsessed culture, it seems very strange to only mandate vaccines for one group of workers and not the other. Aren’t they both critical to the company’s success and aren’t they both at risk of being exposed to the virus? You can even argue that drivers are even more at risk because of the amount of people they move around.

Overall, what’s really outlandish is Khosrowshahi’s comment that mandating vaccines for drivers and riders would be fair, and then proceed to say Uber’s going to do the opposite. Considering he’s not a driver, I guess he can live with a world that’s a bit more unfair.