Uber NZ says its 6500 contract drivers have until January to complete a compulsory course on sexual harassment, or they'll be out.
It's been a year since the ride-sharing firm committed to combating violence and harassment against women using its service.
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The company says, "Over the last 12 months, Uber have been involved in several initiatives to educate and eradicate unsavoury behaviour for both driver-partners and riders – including compulsory education to all driver-partners focusing on sexual harassment, inappropriate conduct and behaviour that is clearly unacceptable.
"Driver-partners have until the end of January 2020 to complete these or they will no longer have access to the Uber driver app."
Uber could not immediately say how many of its 6500 drivers had completed the education as the sharp end of its campaign, which began in July, comes close to wrapping up.
A spokesman did offer, "The educative modules Uber NZ introduced were not mandated by government or regulators. They were an additional suite of materials to help inform driver-partners of their legal obligations, across a range of areas including safe driving and service animals, to help make every trip on the Uber platform safe, respectful and enjoyable for everyone.
"The module on sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct goes beyond what is clearly inappropriate to cover practical examples of behaviour that might be well-meaning, but may make riders feel uncomfortable. "
In New Zealand and worldwide, Uber drivers have been in the media for a number of sexual assaults and harassment incidents, and this morning the company lost its license to operate in over safety concerns.
In February this year, Auckland man Nitan Mittal, who was convicted of indecently assaulting a 14-year-old while working as an Uber driver in 2016, lost a bid to avoid deportation.
In July this year, Uber driver was accused of assaulting and stealing from a young Auckland boy but denied any wrongdoing.
In May 2018, a Wellington woman said she had to walk for 20 minutes in the dark after her Uber driver dropped her off short of her home for rejecting his late-night advances.
In August, it was revealed that a Philadelphia Uber driver who raped his unconscious passenger added an extra $US150 to her bill because the trip took extra time.
In May last year North Sydney Uber driver was arrested and charged with two counts act of indecency and two counts of common assault on a female passenger after dropping off her male companion.
And in August this year a 28-year-old Melbourne man pleaded guilty to raping a woman he bundled into his car while fraudulently using a friend's Uber account.
When the education campaign began in November last year, a CNN investigation found 103 Uber drivers had been accused of sexual assault or abuse in the US, in the prior four years. At least 31 of those drivers have been convicted for crimes, which include false imprisonment, rape or forcible touching.
Uber drivers in NZ have to pass a background check in which the company looks for any criminal record and scans the past seven years of a candidate's driving record.
Uber itself faced a number of sexual harassment lawsuits and investigations into its corporate culture under former chief executive Travis Kalanick.
In July, Uber said it had struck a partnership with a young non-profit called the Purple Campaign whose mission is to end sexual harassment in the workplace.
Uber, Amazon, Expedia and Airbnb have all agreed to share information with the non-profit about their internal policies, including training, reporting and response channels, and diversity and inclusion efforts.
Ola campaign coming
Indian-owned Ola said it had a compulsory driver education campaign of its own on the way.
"Ola has also developed a mandatory online training course to educate drivers about sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour as well as a range of other important safety issues, which will be rolled out across Australia and New Zealand in early 2020," a spokeswoman said.
She added, "Ola was the first rideshare platform in the region to introduce an in-app emergency button which enables customers to instantly share important ride information, such as real-time ride tracking, location coordinates and vehicle and driver information with friends, family, emergency services and a 24/7 emergency assistance team at Ola."
The third main rideshare company in NZ, Zoomy, "has policies in place and a complaint process that all drivers are required to acknowledge when they sign on with us," says chairman Ben Unger.
"We've also started to include a section about Driver conduct with passengers in our training sessions and are updating our Driver guide. We talk about what you can and can't do, language/conversations that should be avoided and a 'no-touch' policy."
He adds, "We have not, to my knowledge, had any substantiated unsavoury behaviour, but remain very watchful."
Unger - who looks after the rich-list Spencer family's major stake in Zoomy - says he has also contacted the NZTA to suggest contact guidelines be part of its P (passenger licence) endorsement process.
Uber, Ola and Zoomy have all begun sending "check your ride" alerts to passengers shortly before a driver arrives, encouraging people to double-check a vehicle's registration number against that given in an Uber booking, and to double-check the driver's ID.
A female-only driver company, DriverHer, launched in Auckland in 2018 but yesterday was not answering calls.