Is Bird’s new pay system shortchanging local electric-scooter mechanics?

Local mechanics say Bird has not fully compensated them for fixing the company’s electric scooters in Raleigh.

Bird announced last week it will be leaving Raleigh after less than a year in the city. It cited the Raleigh City Council’s rules and regulations.

In interviews, mechanics said the company recently changed how it pays them.

“We all had a bad feeling about the [new] pay structure,” said Denis Schneider, one of the mechanics. “It just didn’t make sense.”

“We are not happy about this,” said David Rodriguez, another mechanic. “To us it seems like they have found a way to get their repairs done and not have to pay us for them.”

In a statement, Bird said it is moving away from independent contractors to having “a dedicated team of hourly positions in select cities.”

In Raleigh, however, Bird will continue to use independent contractors until it leaves in a few weeks, the company said. “We are testing a new payment structure to verify that our mechanics are effectively repairing Birds for our riders,” it said.

All mechanics are paid for their labor, but the payment can be delayed for up to 48 hours, Bird said.

But mechanics say they are only paid for fixing a scooter after it has been ridden again within 24 hours. If the scooter isn’t ridden, they aren’t paid, they say.

And some mechanics say scooters have been repaired and ridden and they still have not been paid.

One mechanic, Aaron Lovelace, said Bird paid him for the scooters that remained outstanding after The News & Observer contacted the company.

A change in pay

Mechanics use the Bird app to locate damaged or defective scooters and pick them up for repairs. Some have rented storage units, with their own money, and fix dozens of scooters a day, they said.

Schneider quit his job at a moving company last fall to work full time for Bird.

“Bird had flexible hours,” he said. “I’ve always been pretty handy with my hands. I have mechanical experience in my background. It all kinda lined up with something I wanted to do.”

The mechanics order the parts they need from Bird. The repairs can include flat tires, broken kickstands, missing tail lights, motor troubles or cut brake cables. They are trained, Schneider said, by watching videos through the app.

Rodriguez used to repair scooters in Greensboro, but after they left he started commuting to Raleigh.

The mechanics used to make $15 per scooter they repaired and get paid the next day, the mechanics said, but that changed recently.

On an average week, Rodriguez said he used to be able to earn around $700, which justified doing the work full time and the hour-plus commute.

Now mechanics are paid if someone rides a scooter within 24 hours of their fixing it. If the scooter is ridden one time, they get $10. If the scooter is ridden more than twice, they get $20.

The new system makes sure repairs are actually occurring, Bird said, adding that mechanics are making more money under the new system.

Ride reports

At least once, Bird gave Schneider a “ride report” that showed whether scooters he had repaired were being ridden, but that stopped, he said.

The mechanics started tracking the scooters and said they could see when they’d been moved, and most likely ridden throughout the day.

Despite seeing the scooters move and, in some cases, be ridden off, the mechanics said Bird wouldn’t compensate them.

When asked about that, Bird said all mechanics are paid for their labor but processing can be delayed. Bird also doesn’t give riders rider data.

Lovelace fixes scooters to supplement his income as a single father. The money helped cover Christmas gifts, and he’s saving now to take his children on an educational trip to Washington, D.C.

He provided screenshots asking Bird for a ride report from the company’s mechanic support. The online support chat is the only contact the mechanics have with Bird when there is a problem, he said.

Mechanics don’t receive the reports “and if they are saying they do, then they are lying,” the “mech support” chat told Lovelace.

When he showed them Schneider’s screenshot of a report, Loveless’s ticket was marked closed and he was asked to message them again, according to a screenshot he supplied.

In another screenshot, Lovelace asked why his repaired scooters weren’t showing in his earnings. He was first told it would take a day for it to show up and then that it could mean they were not ridden.

He asked for a ride report this time, too, and was told they were not provided and that there was a two-day delay on being paid.

“A lot of us are just really, really ticked right now because of the business practices that they have been portraying over the last month,” Lovelace said. “I really think they knew all along they were going to leave. It’s a real mess for them right now.”

Lime, which arrived with scooters after Bird, also said last week it planned to leave but did not provide a departure date. Other scooter companies have applied to work with the city, though they won’t be approved until later this year.

The mechanics said they are independent contractors and thus don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Department of Labor. Contractors who feel they may be misclassified and are actually employees are encouraged to contact the labor department’s hotline at 1-800-625-2267.

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