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Issue #1872      June 12, 2019

Uber decision: need for law changes

The Transport Workers’ Union has called on the federal government to enact urgent legislation to ensure workers in the gig economy are given rights and protections against exploitation, following the Fair Work Ombudsman’s announcement that it will not take action against Uber.

“Today’s decision by the Fair Work Ombudsman is devastating for workers in the gig economy,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine. “Last year we had a landmark victory when a Foodora rider won an unfair dismissal case and we know the same control factors are in play for workers in Uber and right across the gig economy.

“If this is what our laws are guiding regulators to do then these laws are hopelessly broken and the Government must act urgently to put in place rights that protect all workers.

“In jurisdictions from London to New York and Los Angeles, Uber is being held to account and faced down despite its massive lobbying efforts and bullying. Yet in Australia today it has been given the green light to continue ripping riders and drivers off, sacking them without warning or the right to appeal and ignoring their pleas to be able to earn a decent living,” Kaine added.

The union has demanded that the federal government move urgently to address the gaping problem. Workers must be given rights regardless of their definition under the law. The evidence shows that Uber workers are being abused: the pay is well below minimum rates, there is no right to negotiate the continual decreasing rates, there is little support when drivers are forced to take time off when they are sick or injured and superannuation is non-existent.

The Rideshare Drivers Co-operative said: “We are very disappointed at the decision not to take action against Uber. Uber continually sends us messages on how we must behave and carry out our jobs. Work is also preferentially allocated based on our ratings and availability for work. If we take time off when sick, we notice a drop off in work allocated to us.

“Uber informs us through the app what our cancellation and acceptance rate is. They are absolutely controlling how we do our jobs. We believe we deserve rights and protections while we do these jobs.”

A survey of over 1,100 rideshare drivers in Australia last October showed the average pay is just $16 per hour before fuel, insurance and other costs are taken out. One in 10 drivers has been physically assaulted while 6% have been sexually assaulted. Workers responding to the survey said they faced death threats from passengers towards them and their families, rape threats, sexual assault, being punched in the face, held at knifepoint, had their car windows broken, their cars stolen and have received racial abuse. Almost two-thirds of drivers have had false reports by passengers.

A survey of food delivery riders in Australia shows three out of every four are paid below minimum rates. Almost 50% of riders had either been injured on the job or knew someone who had. Three UberEats riders have been killed while working.

Last month rideshare drivers in Australia took part in a day of global protest against Uber while food delivery riders delivered an invoice to Uber offices in Sydney for unpaid wages and superannuation.

In November, a former Foodora food delivery rider Josh Klooger supported by the TWU won an unfair dismissal case against the company, after he was sacked for speaking out about rates and conditions. Last month almost 1,700 riders received back-pay totalling nearly $2.3 million after Foodora was forced to admit it was underpaying their wages and refusing them superannuation.

Next article – PM gets pay rise, workers get pay cut

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