A McKell, TWU and TEACHO survey of over 1,000 transport gig workers has revealed that low pay, job insecurity, and the absence of fair, safe and sustainable standards make genuine ‘flexibility’ an illusion.
A staggering 81 per cent of survey respondents depend on the income to survive, over three quarters have to work long hours to make ends meet, yet hourly pay decreases the more hours are worked.
At least 66 per cent of full-time workers – making up roughly half the respondents – and 45 per cent of workers overall are earning less than minimum wage. Based on current estimates of gig workers in Australia, this could translate to 100,000 or more workers experiencing the equivalent of ongoing wage theft.
The survey showed low pay and job insecurity are major safety concerns. More than half experience work-related stress, anxiety, and mental health issues, and 56 per cent of food delivery riders reported feeling pressure to rush and take risks on the road to earn enough money and avoid deactivation for being deemed too slow.
Since 2017, 11 food delivery riders and one rideshare driver have been killed in Australia.
The survey revealed that a majority – 54 per cent – rate fair pay and safe conditions as their top priority, while 46 per cent prioritise flexible hours. However, the survey exposed the inflexibility of gig work in its current form, with 41 per cent needing to work more than 40 hours a week and 69 per cent saying that to earn enough they are compelled to work during peak hours.
One worker said: “I work 7 days a week and often above 70-80 hours a week and I barely make enough money to live.”
Another said: “My biggest worry is the pressure to drive more hours to make more money. Since the pay is so low. We have to drive more and more.”
Of the 79 per cent using multiple apps, three quarters said they need to do so to earn enough income, while a third said it’s for job security, to protect them against their accounts being suddenly deactivated by the algorithm.
More than a quarter of respondents reported having their accounts deactivated and half listed deactivation as one of their top three concerns, while 65% said the work doesn’t give them the job security they need.
The survey received overwhelming support for reform, with 95% of workers supporting regulation to set standards for transport gig work.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine:
“This alarming study busts the myth that transport gig work currently offers flexibility in anything but a tagline. Although many food delivery, parcel delivery and rideshare drivers are drawn to this work on the promise of flexible hours, this is unobtainable without the existence of fair, safe and sustainable standards.
“This survey shows that to pay the bills, workers have little choice but to work long hours and during peak times, while experiencing deadly pressure to rush or take risks just to make enough money and avoid their account being deactivated. Even then, half the workers surveyed said they are struggling to afford groceries because, as revealed by this survey, the more they work the less they earn.
“These findings reveal that the future of gig work is unsustainable for all involved unless enforceable standards for fair pay, decent conditions and job security are put in place. Global gig companies Uber, Menulog and DoorDash have recognised this and joined workers in pushing for reform. Now it’s up to Federal Parliament to pass legislation so that the Fair Work Commission can get on with creating a safety net for transport gig work so it can become truly flexible as well as fair.”
McKell Institute CEO Michael Buckland:
“This is one of the largest ever survey of gig workers in transport and it shows that pay less than minimum wage is commonplace.
“In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, tens of thousands of workers are earning less than minimum wage and feeling the pressure to rush and work long hours to make ends meet. This is a risk to their safety and others.
“This survey shows that tens of thousands of people in Australia are effectively experiencing wage theft and have no rights to sick leave, superannuation, or workers’ compensation. The McKell Institute survey found a third of transport gig workers had been injured at work and three in five had to fend for themselves with no income while sick or injured. Small wonder that 95 per cent of workers said they want regulation. These results make it clear that Federal Parliament must act immediately to reform the rules around gig work.”
Chair of TEACHO Paul Ryan:
“Gig models have permeated the transport industry and this survey shows a bleak and dangerous future for transport work if reform is not passed urgently. We’ve seen gig models infiltrate trucking overseas and we’re seeing it spread deeper into transport sectors in Australia through Amazon and FedEx. This is a crucial piece of research that must inform the Federal Parliament when considering further IR legislation. This report shows what can happen when regulation is absent in an industry like transport which literally carries this country. Failure to regulate causes death and injury.”