Victoria will consider new laws to protect people who drive ride-share vehicles and deliver food in the gig economy, despite the state having little power over industrial relation laws.
- Victoria is proposing a new agency to help gig economy workers
- The government wants industry standards to protect workers’ rights
- Some companies say the gig economy offers workers freedom and flexibility
An inquiry into the state’s gig economy has found that workers have few rights.
Many delivery drivers are considered individual contractors, which denies them access to superannuation, compensation and sick leave.
But the review also found that the gig economy was an important avenue to work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Major issues however were a lack of transparency and accountability of platform operators.
Long hours, few conditions
Win has been working as a delivery driver in Melbourne for about two years.
He works from midday to 10:00pm, seven days a week.
He doesn’t mind the long hours, but said he would like better protection in case he has an accident on his motorbike.
“I always feel secure, but sometimes when it’s raining I feel a little bit scared,” he said.
State Treasurer Tim Pallas’s seventh state budget next Thursday will include $5 million to respond to the 20 recommendations of the inquiry, including developing standards for fair conditions for workers.
The government will also demand operators are more transparent and create a set of industry standards.
In response to the report, the government will also set up a new agency for gig economy workers and operators to improve and protect workers’ rights.
It would also act as a mediator in disputes.
Online food and beverage app, Menulog has already announced it will trial a new employment model to give its delivery workers access to entitlements.
The inquiry chaired by former Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James recommended the Commonwealth develop laws to protect gig economy workers – but in the absence of federal action the states should consider local laws.
Industrial relations is the domain of the Commonwealth, not the states.
“It would be appropriate for the Commonwealth to undertake meaningful reform to national laws,” Mr Pallas said.
“[But] we can’t simply sit back and wait for the Commonwealth.”
Victoria’s Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien warned against the state devising industrial laws, saying that the Fair Work Commission was perfectly suited to determine the status of workers in the gig economy.
“It’s got to be fair for workers and fair for businesses,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Are they [Andrews government] going to run their own system and goodness knows what that will mean for Victorian workers.”
Gig economy contractors ‘value flexibility’
Companies argue that last year’s coronavirus lockdowns highlighted how important the gig economy had become to business and customers, while also providing a new avenue for work for people who lost work due to COVID-19.
A spokeswoman for the online food delivery service Deliveroo said the vast majority of its riders valued the “flexibility of being able to choose when and where they work, and for how long”.
“We continue to make a valuable contribution to the Victorian economy and in order to remain competitive, this entrepreneurial spirit must be encouraged and supported,” she said.
A spokesman for Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash said the gig economy presented opportunities for flexibility and variety in how people worked, built their skills and how businesses operated.
“Gig economy workers value the freedom and flexibility that this type of work offers,” she said.
The Federal Government is monitoring developments in the gig economy across states and overseas.
“State and territory governments are responsible for regulating aspects of the gig economy, particularly in relation to work health and safety,” she said.
“The government believes more can be done by state and territory governments through education, compliance and enforcement of work health and safety laws”