The Transport Workers’ Union is urging the Australian Government to implement a tribunal with powers to set minimum standards for workers in the gig economy following Uber’s ad hoc approach to its damaging new contract that forces food delivery riders onto new terms and conditions.
On Friday Uber told press it would remove a clause that sought to silence riders from speaking out about their working conditions in any way that could lead to ‘regulatory scrutiny’ following pressure from the TWU which led to questions from journalists.
The TWU had called for “the Federal Government to examine the clause and intervene if the clause is found to contravene the Fair Work Act.”
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine welcomed the removal of the clause but said that this shows Uber is improvising with a contract that impedes workers from achieving minimum wage or basic rights.
“This gag order should never have existed. Food delivery riders reliant on the small income they can make from their essential work have no negotiating power over their pay or working conditions. Uber’s attempt to take away even their right to speak up or notify authorities about their poor working conditions is beyond exploitation and far along the path to full-blown control.
“Uber backing down so quickly on this matter shows that the company is not setting terms and conditions based on what’s legal or what’s right, but on what they can attempt to get away with.
“When they’re challenged, either by pressure from the media or the Federal Court, they simply move the goal posts to avoid being forced to abide by workplace laws.
“Enough is enough. The Federal Government has turned a blind eye while app-based gig companies have refused to pay workers minimum wage or give them rights, and even as Uber has taken a red pen to our legislated workers’ compensation and imagined up a figure less than half of it for their own insurance. All while food delivery riders are dying at work. Where will our industrial system be in a few years if we keep allowing Uber executives and the like to pull their own terms and conditions out of the clouds on which they apparently live?
“We need the Federal Government to urgently set up a tribunal with the power to set minimum standards and protections for workers no matter how much tech giants attempt to shift their terms to keep workers down,” Kaine said.
The new contract, sent to food delivery riders last week, will come into effect on 1 March, with riders having no choice but to accept the new terms if they want to keep their jobs. The contract seeks to distance Uber from an employee relationship with its riders following heavy criticism from Federal Court judges over its sham business model in an unfair dismissal case which the company chose to settle.
The full clause set to be removed from the contract stated that riders would be sacked if: “the rider engages in conduct that has the potential to cause adverse publicity, media attention or regulatory scrutiny or which may be detrimental to Uber’s reputation or brand.”
Uber has refused to provide riders with workers’ compensation insurance, instead applying its own insurance with entitlements far below NSW Government’s iCare and with ambiguous terms that have been known to prevent riders from accessing it. Click here for a comparison of the insurance schemes.
The TWU is taking a landmark case for full compensation against Uber on behalf of the wife and four-year-old son of Dede Fredy, a rider killed in Sydney in September.
The claim has been filed against NSW workers compensation insurer iCare and Uber and will be pursued in a test case at the Workers Compensation Commission. Such a test case will be the first ever brought against a gig economy company in pursuit of full rights under workers’ compensation.
Five delivery riders died while working in September and October. This prompted the NSW government to set up a taskforce. The Victorian Government is examining feedback following a report into an inquiry into the gig economy which recommended regulation of the sector. The TWU has met and written to Attorney General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter asking the Federal Government to implement a tribunal that would protect gig economy workers.