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Issue #1896      November 27, 2019

Uber profits from abuse

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) last week began legal action against Uber in the Fair Work Commission after a food delivery driver was sacked for being just 10 minutes late. The TWU is seeking before a full bench of the Commission to appeal a previous decision rejecting the unfair dismissal case taken by SA-based driver Amita Gupta and her husband Santosh.

The TWU last year won a case for unfair dismissal against Foodora after a delivery rider was sacked for speaking out about low rates and poor conditions.

“We will be asking the full bench of the Fair Work Commission to hear this case on the grounds of public interest. Everyday thousands of food delivery riders experience degrading conditions. With no minimum guaranteed wages they are expected to remain logged on for work for hours, waiting for delivery orders to come through. When the orders do come through the rates are pitiful. If they are late by even a few minutes or complain they get sacked. We do not believe it is in the public interest for these dystopian conditions to be allowed to endure and become the norm in Australia,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

“It is a mark of the absolute failing of the federal government that individual food delivery riders and drivers are forced to take on these massive global corporations one by one to defend their rights. Amita’s case shows the slave-like conditions gig economy workers face: in one week alone she was logged onto the app for 96 hours and was paid just $300. When she was late with an order by 10 minutes, Uber sacked her. We cannot stand by and allow this to happen,” he added.

The TWU will be arguing that other jurisdictions around the world have recognised that gig economy workers have rights. In addition to the cases against Uber and Foodora, the TWU is also taking legal action against Deliveroo over the gross underpayment of a delivery rider. Delivery riders and drivers will take part in a day of action this Wednesday.

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

An investigation by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission forced UberEats to admit it is a transport operator, not a technology platform, in contracts with restaurants and to stop making restaurants pay for customer refunds.

Media has reported that Uber used spyware to hack into rival rideshare companies, to steal data on their drivers so they could lure them over to Uber. The company also used spyware to close down accounts of government investigators who were monitoring the company’s illegal operations when it arrived in Australia in 2014. While the Fair Work Ombudsman has refused to prosecute Uber during after a two-year investigation it has refused to provide the TWU and media with documents showing how it came to that decision.

According to documents the Ombudsman did supply, just 14 rideshare drivers were interviewed for the investigation.

This year almost 1,700 Foodora riders received back-pay totalling nearly $2.3 million after Foodora was forced to admit it was underpaying their wages and refusing them superannuation following audits by the ATO and Revenue NSW.

Next article – Housing for the people

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