the lure of the gig economy for workers


“Whatever we come up with needs to be fit for purpose across all sectors and accommodating all sorts of work,” she said.

“It also needs to be fair and it needs to ensure there are ways of resolving questions about the status of the worker and what rules apply.”

Dennis Peperkamp, 47, and his wife Nathalie, who are both students, have been working for Deliveroo for almost a year and enjoy the flexible hours.

“You can work whenever you want,” Mr Peperkamp said. “You can buy insurances and get that protection yourself – or get another job.”

However, Mr Peperkamp said riders were concerned about dangers of the job and the lack of sick leave and changes in their contracts which had meant they had to work longer hours to make the same money.

A spokeswoman for the Rideshare Driver Co-operative said many on-demand drivers “don’t want to be employees, but neither do we want to want to be categorised as independent businesses”.

“We want to be covered under industrial law in a third category of independent workers so that industrial protections that apply to the rest of the Australian workforce, apply to us,” she said.

“It’s true that all drivers want flexibility, but we don’t really get it.”

The spokeswoman said many drivers earned an income below the legal minimum wage.

“We want to take home a living wage and to be able to afford to be sick, to have sick leave and to take some time off every year and to be able to save up for our own superannuation,” she said.

University of Sydney Professor of Labour Law Joellen Riley said policy makers need to learn how to regulate the industry without being “paternalistic”.

“I think we need to get more creative about how we recognise the kinds of rights that these kinds of workers themselves desire – such as protection from capricious termination of their work contracts, and access to income support if they become ill or injured,” she said.

“I don’t know that this necessarily needs to be by including new provisions in the Fair Work Act – but it could. Once upon a time, the unfair contracts provisions for contractors were in the old Industrial Relations Act 1988. I would rather see a form of regulatory protection for these workers that satisfies what they are asking for.”

In its submission to the Victorian inquiry, the Foundation of Young Australians (FYA) said young people are entering an increasingly complex and unpredictable working future “where precarious and insecure jobs are becoming the norm”.

The foundation said “limited research” exists on young people’s participation in the on-demand economy and more research was required to access their needs.

Deliveroo’s submission to the inquiry says legal concepts of employee and independent contractors “cannot provide the flexibility that Deliveroo riders want and the security which we believe riders deserve”. It has recommended law reform to allow workers to accrue benefits on the basis of work performed such as the number of deliveries completed.

Jodie Auster, regional general manager for Uber Eats said its workers value the freedom of “being their own boss” which did not need to come at the expense of their security because Uber Eats now provides accident insurance.

Australian legal experts have warned that a “third” category of worker would create a new way of denying workers the full range of employment benefits.

Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine said gig economy workers did not need new definitions and labels, “they need rights”.

Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter.

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