Uber Australia has signed a historic deal with the Transport Workers’ Union – a statement of principles re-regulating work in the Australian carpool and food delivery industry.
This is a major shift to labor relations in the gig economy.
Uber and its rival platforms have largely treated their workforce as independent contractors, not as employees entitled to benefits such as sick leave, minimum wages or union representation.
Now the gig economy banner has agreed with the union that workers on the platform should be given some basic conditions.
What do Uber and the Transport Workers’ Union agree on?
First, and foremost, Uber and the Transport Workers’ Union have agreed to support the creation of an independent arbitrator, possibly as part of the Fair Work Commission, to apply minimum standards and practices across the industry.
There are four main objectives.
First, an enforceable bottom around revenues, to provide transparency to drivers and ensure platforms don’t try to compete by cutting labor costs. Income is a critical care for gig workers.
Second, improved and low-cost options for employees to resolve disputes through an independent arbitrator. As contractors, gig workers currently have little recourse to handle grievances†
Third, the right for workers to organize themselves collectively and be represented by a trade union.
Fourth, the effective enforcement of these and other standards, including occupational health and safety compliance.
In addition to these core principles, Uber and the Transport Workers’ Union have also agreed to have an ongoing conversation to make these principles work in practice, not just on paper.
The statement of principle of the Uber-Transport Workers’ Union follows the signing of a similar joint charter with DoorDash in May.
The answer seems fairly obvious: the Morrison administration, which had little enthusiasm for regulating the gig economy, has been replaced by the Albanian government, which signaled that it will†
The new Labor government plans for the gig economy and employee-like work arrangements include giving the Fair Work Commission the power to regulate “employee-like” forms of work.
The exact details and timeline for these reforms have not been disclosed.
These union platform agreements suggest that platforms like to be at the forefront and potentially shape this regulatory agenda.
No more discussion about classification
It is critical that unions and platforms working together end the classification debates – employee versus independent contractor – that: have been fought in the Fair Work Commission and the courts over the past five years.
as we have previously proposed, the debates about whether employees treated as independent contractors should actually be classified as employees are largely a dead end. They may have even harmed employees, as platforms have tried to avoid anything that the Fair Work Commission or a court might interpret as indicative of an employer-employee relationship.
This agreement represents a different approach that can lead to better results. It should help platforms avoid the costs and reputational damage of ongoing lawsuits. It also helps the union. Recent Supreme Court rulings have made it more difficult for the union to recruit, organize and represent gig workers. This agreement implicitly accepts the union’s right to represent those workers.
Set the calendar
These principles are also very much in line with the government of Albania proposal to improve the conditions of “employee-like work”.
Uber and Doordash appear to be embracing self-regulation to set the agenda around what is (and most importantly, what isn’t) included in the new regulations for employee-like work arrangements.
The future of gig work looks very different than it did a few months ago.
- 1 What do Uber and the Transport Workers’ Union agree on?
- 2 Why now?
- 3 No more discussion about classification
- 4 Set the calendar