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As it stands, the gig economy grants those who deliver our food very little security, sometimes paying them as little as $6 an hour if they’re fortunate. It’s time we deliver change.
We live in a decade seen as the golden age of the gig economy, but the work practices of these “revolutionary” corporations often have more in common with the 1800s. We need to make the rules fair for everyone, so gig economy workers can get the income and security they deserve.
The convenience of the gig economy and new technologies shouldn’t come at the cost of workers. In Australia, the effects of the increase in contract, freelance and temporary work are being powerfully felt. Thanks to research done by the Transport Workers Union, we know that three in four food delivery riders are paid below the minimum wage.
This statistic is shocking, but it should come as no surprise to a typical worker for Uber Eats, Foodora or Deliveroo, many of whom are paid as little as $6 an hour.
By hiring gig economy workers as independent contractors or engaging them through intermediary agencies, corporations get away with denying them the wages employees receive by right. Sometimes, workers can be left with zero dollars an hour, as there are no guarantees of deliveries and no additional hourly payment.
These revelations should outrage us. They show us that when technology combines with neo-liberalism, the worst aspects of a market economy are intensified. We live in a time when wage growth is stagnating, wage theft is normalised and underemployment is an epidemic. The government has abandoned its responsibility to provide proper regulation, allowing corporations to make millions at the expense of their own workers. Gig economy workers are often struggling to subsist in an economic system that doesn’t care about their welfare.
The right to a fair wage and secure work is a fundamental principle of the Greens, and we believe that our desire for convenient services should never disadvantage the people who do the real labour to provide them.
There’s no good reason why it works this way. We know how to develop our laws so that digital economy workers get the protections we all deserve, and we can. Last week I introduced the Fair Work Amendment (Making Australia More Equal) Bill 2018, a bill to give the Fair Work Commission the power to extend provisions of the Fair Work Act, or awards or enterprise agreements, to gig economy workers and others in non-standard forms of work.
As a result of this bill, corporations like Uber and Deliveroo will still be able to use any legal arrangement they choose, but won’t be able to use these arrangements to undercut legal minimum wages and conditions given to employees. Independent contractors will have the protection of the Fair Work Act, so that they never have to head home with less than the minimum wage.
Three decades of Labor and Liberal neo-liberal policy have escalated insecurity in this country, and just as the gap between the richest and poorest Australians is widening, the gap between secure and insecure workers is rapidly growing too. The right to a fair wage and secure work is a fundamental principle of the Greens, and we believe that our desire for convenient services should never disadvantage the people who do the real labour to provide them.
The legislation to support them is now before Parliament, and it only takes the willingness of our government and opposition to do the right thing by some of our most vulnerable workers. Let’s hope they surprise us.
Adam Bandt MP is the Federal Member for Melbourne and the Greens spokesperson on employment and industrial relations.