Urgent gig economy regulation needed as exploitative Amazon Flex enters Australian market

TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 22 January 2020

The transport workers union says the arrival of Amazon Flex poses a serious public safety risk, and is calling on the government to introduce federal regulation on the gig economy.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the arrival of Amazon Flex is hugely concerning. “Australians should not underestimate the very real public safety risk ruthless and exploitative operators like Amazon Flex pose.”

“One investigation in the US identified more than 60 accidents, including 10 deaths, since 2015 which involved Amazon delivery contractors.

“That includes the death of a nine-month-old girl. Despite the time pressures Amazon had placed on the sub-contracted delivery driver being a significant factor in the crash, Amazon escapes any liability. This means the parents get no compensation and the driver gets no help.”

Amazon Flex requires gig workers to log on for four hours at a time to be available to deliver packages, often with unrealistic time pressures placed on the driver. They are required to use their own vehicle.

“There are licensing standards for a reason – road transport is the deadliest industry in terms of workplace deaths with around 200 people killed in truck crashes each year. Amazon Flex doesn’t just exploit drivers, with poor pay and no conditions, it risks public safety because unskilled delivery drivers will be on the roads delivering potentially large packages with little experience or training in how to do this safely.

“It is exploitative. It requires no investment from Amazon and contributes nothing to Australia’s transport infrastructure other than adding more congestion to our roads and undercutting delivery driver standards.

“Amazon Flex drivers, just like Uber drivers or food delivery riders, cannot set rates and are entirely directed by an algorithm which allocat­es work based on an arbitrary ratings system.

“The government could act today, by implementing federal regulation to improve conditions and protect against the dangerous business models of multinationals that have no interest in their workers.

“Meanwhile, the Senate inquiry into road transportation must consider the impact Amazon Flex and other gig economy freight operators will have on the industry, particularly its sustainability and safety.

“This federal government abolished a road safety watchdog in 2016 that would have been able to deal with Amazon Flex and make our roads safer, our businesses more sustainable and require these companies to treat workers with fairness and respect.”

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