Uber Eats could cost even more for customers if the government’s workplace reform delivers new wage laws.
The Labor Government announced on Thursday the need for fairer working conditions in Australia’s gig economy, which uses online platforms to connect individuals providing services with consumers.
Ride-share services such as Uber and Didi, UberEats and MenuLog and other food delivery services, and service outsourcing platforms such as Airtasker all fall within the gig working industry, along with many roles in the NDIS and aged care sector.
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The sector is in what workplace relations minister Tony Burke called a “loophole”, in a National Press Club speech which announced the government’s plans to close it.
He admitted there could be some “modest pass through” because of the reforms, but “we are talking about some of the lowest paid people in Australia”.
“If that means there’s a tiny bit extra you pay when your pizza arrives to your door and they’re more likely to be safe on the roads getting there, then I reckon it’s a pretty small price to pay,” Burke said.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus said on Thursday: “These loopholes are being used by business simply to drive down wages.”
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New pay rates, insurance, and unfair dismissal protections for “employee-like workers” will be introduced under the move, but Burke said the exact pay rise figures would be defined by the Fair Work Commission.
Uber Eats driver Nabin Adhikari told 7NEWS he earns $950 for a 70-hour week — that’s just $13.60 per hour, and sometimes as little as $4 per gig.
“Every (gig) worker has been totally exploited,” he said.
“Most of the drivers in this industry, I would say, they are just like one unexpected car breakdown away from being broke.”
Uber Eats driver Nabin Adhikari told 7NEWS that most delivery drivers in the gig economy are being exploited. Credit: 7NEWS
But it’s not just pizza delivery propping up the gig economy.
Burke said that those working outside the aged care sector or the NDIS “won’t realise how much of (these services are) being delivered through the gig economy.”
While prices could increase as platforms pass on the cost to consumers, Burke highlighted that taxpayers already fork out the cost of fair wages to aged care and NDIS service provider businesses — but gig workers aren’t seeing it.
“First thing to remember with this is, as taxpayers, we all pay for the service to be delivered at the rate of pay that would apply for an employee. As taxpayers, we’ve already made that commitment for that money to be spent.”
But when taxpayer money goes to the businesses’ platforms, workers bid down on each other to secure work.
‘Underpaying people is cheaper, yeah it is. Slavery is probably cheaper,’ workplace relations minister Tony Burke said on Thursday. Credit: 7NEWS
“Their minimum rate is not based on the award. It’s still less than what you are legally meant to pay someone. (Businesses) get away with it because of a loophole, and as taxpayers, we still fork out the full amount.”
He warned businesses there would be scrutiny if the incurred costs of workplace reform were passed on to workers and consumers.
“Don’t pretend that this means fewer services get provided to the person needing them, because that’s not true – because the government’s already fully paying for it,” he said.
‘Needs to be done’
Some businesses have pushed back, calling the changes required to enforce “employee-like” conditions, without opening up new loopholes for casual workers, “complex”.
“Businesses put to us there’d be some aspects and ways we could regulate that would create a real problem in complexity for them, Burke said.
“It’s true. Having no standards at all is really simple. Having no protections is completely simple.
“You don’t need to put anything in the Act to provide the levels of protection that we currently have for gig workers. So, yeah, it adds something, it needs to.
“If we’re going to be a nation where you don’t have to rely on tips to make ends meet, then there needs to be some extra regulation and words on the page — and that has to be done.”
A huge number of services offered by the NDIS and aged care sector also provided by gig workers, Burke said. Credit: 7NEWS
He even linked the pushback against increased prices and lower profits, under new wage laws, to proslavery thought.
“Underpaying people is cheaper, yeah it is. Slavery is probably cheaper,” Burke said.
‘It’s got to be possible to have 21st century technology without having 19th century working conditions.”
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