Uber UK case: urgent need to regulate in Australia

The Transport Workers’ Union is urging the Federal Government to regulate the gig economy, as Uber announced it was introducing piecemeal rights for workers following a UK Supreme Court judgment last month.

Michael Kaine TWU National Secretary said Uber should not get to decide how few rights workers should get.

“This is a significant win for gig economy workers: Uber has been forced to recognise workers’ rights and the TWU sends congratulations to the UK workers who stood strong over many years to get Uber to this point.

“Uber only took this step because it realised it had no choice and now what they are doing is offering scraps of rights in a piecemeal way.

“Uber is rowing back the Supreme Court judgment in the UK by trying to restrict rights to when drivers are carrying passengers and muddy the waters on what the minimum wage is.

“The example of California last year also shows how Uber will do anything to get around labor laws, including spending millions on political lobbying and advertising campaigns to force through a bad law. Since Prop 22 has been enacted reports show that poor conditions for gig workers remain and that pay has even decreased.

“This is why Australia must move quickly to regulate the likes of Uber in the right way. Instead of allowing Uber to introduce static definitions on how they treat their workers, and choosing what bits of rights they will recognise, Australia must put in place a tribunal with full powers to regulate on gig workers’ rights.

“Uber is clearly sensing that governments around the world are responding to gig workers’ demands for rights and they are panicking. We are seeing this today with the UK announcement and we saw it in December when they moved quickly to settle in the Gupta case after Federal Court judges slammed their business model.

“It should not be up to Uber to decide how few rights gig workers get. It is up to the Federal Government to act now and ensure delivery riders and rideshare drivers are not ripped off and are safe in their jobs.”

Yesterday, Hungry Panda riders celebrated a historic win for gig economy workers in Australia including pay increases, insurance and the reinstatement of two sacked riders who protested over pay cuts.

The TWU has taken several cases against gig economy companies, including current cases for unfair sacking and gross underpayment against Deliveroo.

The TWU won an unfair dismissal case involving Melbourne delivery rider Josh Klooger against Foodora in 2018. The company subsequently left Australia and was forced to pay millions in underpaid wages and non-payment of superannuation to its workers.

In December Uber settled a case involving the sacking of an Adelaide delivery driver who was 10 minutes late with an order. The Federal Court appeared to be poised to rule against the company as it savaged its business model and attempts to deny any relationship to its workers.

Surveys have shown:

Food delivery riders earn as little as $5 per delivery

  • 70% say they are struggling to pay bills and buy food
  • More than one in three has been injured on the job, with the vast majority (80%) receiving no support from their company

Rideshare drivers earn an average of $12 an hour

  • 17% have been sexually harassed or assaulted by passengers
  • 85% said their wages had decreased while working in the gig economy
  • 36% had been involved in a car accident while working

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