June 24, 2020


A survey highlighting how transport workers in the gig economy are being exploited through unpaid work and lack of rights shows the need to regulate the sector, says the TWU.

The survey shows most gig economy workers work as rideshare drivers and food delivery riders for Uber, Deliveroo, Ola and Lyft. They are significantly less satisfied with the work than other gig economy workers especially the inability to negotiate rates. They do on average 5.2 hours unpaid work each week and many have no work injury insurance.

Rideshare drivers and food delivery riders were much more likely to say that their work generated 100% of their total annual income and that the income was essential for meeting basic needs.

The TWU said the survey, conducted by Queensland University of Technology, the University of Adelaide and University of Technology Sydney, was further evidence that the gig economy must be regulated.

“This survey is an eye-opener on what life is like for the thousands of people who deliver our food and transport us around. The Federal Government can no longer ignore the grim reality that gig work unregulated is creating an army of exploited workers who have no choice but to accept low rates, unpaid work and a scenario where neither their health nor their income is protected. Jurisdictions around the world have acted on this type of evidence and given these workers rights. The Federal Government needs to stand up for workers in Australia and do the same,” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said.

NSW Vic/Tas Branch Secretary John Berger after months of pressure from the TWU and transport workers, the Victorian Government has taken a step in the right direction. “Gig economy workers have been on the front line of this pandemic – risking their health and wellbeing for low rates and even lower health and safety standards. We know that governments around the world have acted swiftly to protect these workers under law. We thank the Victorian Government for their work in the gig economy space, without strong regulations on the gig economy we will see these abhorrent business practices spread throughout the transport industry. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government towards an outcome which protects both gig economy workers and the rest of the supply chain from these systems of exploitation,” Berger added.

The survey shows rideshare and food delivery workers are significantly more likely to be younger (18-34 years of age), to be on a temporary residency visa and to speak a language other than English at home.  Although gig economy employers try to operate on the basis that their workers are self-employed, over a quarter of workers say they are treated as employees.

The TWU has taken a number of court cases against gig economy employers. The Union has won an unfair dismissal case against Foodora and is fighting cases of unfair dismissal against Uber and Deliveroo. The TWU is also taking Deliveroo to court over gross underpayment.

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