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Gig economy under workers’ rights review

October 2nd, 2018 | | employment
Home-delivery services like Uber Eats and Deliveroo may be popular with punters, but their rapid expansion in Australia has been accompanied by tales of worker exploitation.

Those who deliver meals from top restaurants to hungry diners are part of the emerging gig-economy and on-demand industry, and they often lack the protections that those in more established sectors enjoy.

Concerned by stories like those of Icce Mejia, the Victorian Government has announced an inquiry into an industry synonymous with sham contracting.

Mr Mejia was one of the top ranked delivery bike riders with the now defunct Foodora.

Under their system, he was required to have a business number and provide his own bike.

“Basically, you are an independent contractor,” he said.

Mr Mejia, who moved to Australia from Mexico in 2015, worked at least 50 hours a week with Foodora.

But racing to deliver more orders – staff are paid per order – he was involved in an accident when the door of a parked car was opened onto him.

Despite a broken arm, and damage to his bike, he walked the order two more blocks.

The injury happened on the job, but he was given no compensation, as he “didn’t work for them” and so had no entitlements or insurance.

“As long as we are independent contractors, they use that against us, whenever something like this happens,” he said.

“You are on your own.

“But while we are working just fine… they tell you what to do … they are basically our bosses.”

During his month off, he slid down the Foodora work rankings which means he could not access any shifts.

Workers are ‘deliberately denied rights’

Unions say the problem in the gig economy is that most workers are on individual contracts or work as sub-contractors which deny them basic workplace rights.

In response to these rising concerns, the Victorian Government is establishing an inquiry into the on-demand workforce, with former Fair Work ombudsman Natalie James recruited to chair the investigation.

The aim of the investigation is to work out what legislation is required to better protect workers and consumers. It will also look at organisations like AirTasker.

Issues with the industry gained widespread attention earlier this year June when food delivery company Foodora decided to pull out of Australia, shortly after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced action in the Federal Court against it for alleged sham contracting.

The Transport Workers Union has been fighting for protection for workers in the sector.

National Secretary Michael Kaine said a survey of gig workers found that 70 per cent believed they were being denied workplace rights.

“This is not some shiny new economy,” he said.

“They are being ripped off because companies are structuring themselves to deliberately deny them rights”.

Sham contracts and ‘pretty unsafe circumstances’

Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Natalie Hutchins said some businesses used sham contracting to avoid paying minimum wages, annual leave, sick leave and superannuation.

Workers also struggle for assistance when injured on the job.

“Unfortunately, there have been way too many examples of exploitation of workers and also those workers facing pretty unsafe circumstances, particularly when they are using our roads,” Ms Hutchins said.

The inquiry will examine allegations and determinations concerning contracting arrangements and whether these arrangements are being used to avoid workplace laws and other statutory obligations in Victoria.

“We want to make sure that those jobs are built free of exploitation of the workforce,” the Minister said.

The inquiry is expected to deliver a final report to the Government in late 2019, and will be seeking public submissions, including worker and business input.

Ms Hutchins said the next major industry to be reviewed would be people buying and delivering groceries from supermarkets to homes.

A Deliveroo spokeswoman said it offered its riders “well-paid, flexible work”, and in a recent survey 91 per cent of its riders said that flexibility was the number one reason they rode for the company.

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow