TWU calls for urgent action in light of Victorian gig economy inquiry

The Transport Workers’ Union is urging the Federal Government to act following the call to regulate the gig economy made today by a groundbreaking Victorian Government inquiry into the sector.

The TWU in particular supports the Inquiry’s recommendation to set up an independent body which can deliver binding determinations for gig economy workers seeking rights.

TWU Victoria Tasmania Branch Secretary John Berger welcomed the report given the level of abuses going on in the gig economy.

“I commend the Andrews Labor Government for pioneering this report – the first of its kind undertaken in Australia. I look forward to working collaboratively with the Victorian Government throughout the consultation process,” Berger said

“This report demonstrates how employers deliberately structure their businesses to deny workers’ rights by engineering their work status so they get none of the benefits of workplace laws. It details how gig economy workers are shut out of sick pay, annual leave, minimum rates and how they are mercilessly terminated by the likes of Uber and Deliveroo without the chance to argue their case. It highlights the control these employers have over them and how little chance workers have to bargain for better rates and conditions,” he continued.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Victorian Inquiry report highlighted the urgent need for the Federal Government to protect workers in the gig economy.

“The report also shows how given the growing numbers of workers in the gig economy, some of them vulnerable young and migrant workers, that the Federal Government can no longer ignore the problems. The Inquiry obtained information from the ATO showing a 249% per cent increase in ABNs in the transport, postal and warehousing industry. This shows the army of rideshare drivers and food delivery riders who are powering the gig economy without any protections or rights,” Kaine said.

“We welcome the call for an independent body to investigate denial of rights to gig workers and where necessary arbitrate. We don’t want to see a situation where employers continually move the goal posts on work status to ensure that workers are shut out of rights. Workers must be able to demand rights regardless of the take-it-or-leave-it contracts their employers force them to sign,” he added.

The Inquiry shows 18.6% of gig economy workers engage in rideshare or delivery work, with transport work the biggest component of Australia’s gig economy sector.

The Inquiry heard from a rideshare driver who after working “for two years and earned 10,000 positive reviews, reported having been suspended due to eight passenger complaints over that time”.

It adds: “Another driver complained a passenger had tried to assault him and that he was suspended when he followed this up in writing.”

On pay, the report states that one delivery rider stated he earned about $14 an hour, given Uber’s commission and the unpaid work he had to do in the 15-20 minutes it would take to collect food.

The TWU is taking several cases against gig economy companies, including unfair sackings against Deliveroo and Uber and a case against Deliveroo for gross underpayment. The TWU won a case for unfair dismissal against Foodora and helped ensure thousands of Foodora riders received backpay and unpaid super after the company admitted it had underpaid them.

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