At today’s job security inquiry, the Transport Workers’ Union will warn of a ‘national emergency’ brought by the rise of insecure and exploitative gig economy arrangements into every industry in Australia, calling for urgent regulation.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine will call on the select committee to mark a turning point in the expansion of gig-style work into freight and other industries.
“The cost of the gig economy is simply devastating. Each day workers are stripped of their livelihoods at the whim of an app notification with no redress. Those who are not are subjected to dangerous toil with the despair of vainly trying to subsist on less than half the National minimum wage. And that is of course, only if that subsistence is not ended abruptly by death or serious injury wrought by these dangerous work pressures.
“The lives of 100,000 gig transport workers today, 650,000 transport workers tomorrow and every other Australian worker in the near future hang in the balance. The exploitative gig model that has seen food delivery riders die now threatens to pervade the entirety of the freight market and has moved quickly into nearly every single area of the economy. This is channelling towards the destruction of industrial rights that have been built up to protect workers over decades. This would be a national emergency.
“This outcome is not inevitable. With regulation to set minimum pay, standards and protections for all workers, the Federal Government would ensure a bright future for the Australian economy and workforce. Gig companies espouse the myth that flexibility and fairness are mutually exclusive concepts, but their coexistence has been a distinguishing feature of the Australian system for over a century. We can be a nation which embraces this latest wave of technological change and innovation in a way that is shaped by an unwavering commitment to fairness, equality and community. But our laws must change, and we must act now,” he said.
Last year, five food delivery riders died in a two-month period. The NSW Government set up a Taskforce to investigate, which the TWU has slammed for silencing workers on fatal pressures caused by low pay and for refusing to take any regulatory action.
The TWU has two live cases against Deliveroo for underpayments and unfair sacking of workers and previously won an unfair dismissal case against Foodora which subsequently skipped the country.
In December, Uber rushed to settle a case over the unfair sacking of delivery driver Amita Gupta after Federal Court judges savaged its business model. Uber subsequently changed its contracts with delivery riders in an attempt to distance itself from responsibility to pay minimum wage or give rights to workers.