Drivers for Uber and other rideshare companies say they are being ripped off, assaulted, threatened and racially abused.
A survey of 1100 drivers released today found more than 60 per cent reported earning below the average hourly $17 rate, before costs such as fuel, insurance and car maintenance.
There were also 969 reports of harassment and assault.
The survey, by the Transport Workers' Union and Rideshare Driver Co-operative, reported one-in-10 drivers being physically assaulted on the job while six per cent were sexually assaulted.
"A passenger pinned me into my seat with his body weight while he used a hand to sexually assault me," one respondent said.
Thirty-seven per cent reported being threatened while almost a third received racist comments.
"I have had drunk passengers call me a n***er and terrorist", one driver said.
Another driver reported a passenger joked "about taking me to a remote location to rape me".
One respondent filed a police report after being held at knifepoint, with the rideshare company failing to deactivate the passenger's account.
Drivers also complained of being immediately deactivated from the ride-share apps when passengers leave wallets behind or make false reports.
"Drivers want to be paid a fair rate, we want protections against threats and assaults and we want to go to work and know our company will not sack us without giving us a right of reply," said the co-operative's Emmett D'Urso.
The Transport Workers' Union's Tony Sheldon said the "shocking and disturbing" survey results reveal the true nature of the on-demand economy, where drivers are being ripped off and and offered no support.
"What's going on is eighteenth century exploitation via an app."
The survey was conducted between July and October. Respondents, some of whom work for multiple rideshare companies, work for Uber, Ola, Taxify, DiDi and others.
An Uber spokeswoman said it was committed to driver safety and violence was not tolerated.
Allegations by a rider or driver are investigated by its 24/7 team and any necessary action taken, including removing rider access to the app.
Last month, new safety features, including an in-app emergency help button were announced for all riders and drivers in Australia.
"We continue to work on promoting the safe use of our app and tackling tough issues with safety experts and leading organisations in Australia," the spokeswoman said.
Ola, Taxify and DiDi were also contacted.