The Greens Are Pushing For Uber And Deliveroo To Actually Pay Their Workers Minimum Wage

Seems fair?

Greens’ co-deputy leader Adam Bandt is pushing for workers in the sharing economy — that means services like Uber and food delivery workers — to get basic entitlements like a minimum wage. He’s introduced a bill in parliament this morning.

Let’s break it down.

How Are Uber, Deliveroo And Foodora Workers Treated Now?

Over the past few months, it’s been revealed that the majority of food delivery riders are paid below the national minimum wage.

In January, the Sydney Morning Herald wrote that three in four delivery workers surveyed said they weren’t paid minimum wage, and many didn’t have sick pay or insurance.

Companies like Uber, Deliveroo and Foodora get away with this by classifying their workers as independent contractors, rather than employees. Independent contractors often don’t get leave or penalty rates, and can be dismissed from their jobs at any time without warning.

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Most importantly, they don’t need to be paid a minimum hourly rate: which means that delivery companies can pay workers by the delivery, rather than by the hour.

As Guardian Australia reported last year, some workers are getting paid as little as $6 per hour.

In other countries, the issue of whether or not sharing economy workers should be classified as independent contractors or minimum wage-bound employees has been settled in the courts. In a recent Californian Supreme Court decision, a legal test was set up that makes it easier for Uber drivers to argue to a court that they’re entitled to the minimum wage.

But it often takes a long time for these changes to go through: it will take a fair few more court cases before it’s decided conclusively whether sharing economy workers are owed the minimum wage.

In the meantime, companies can change the way they pay their workers without notice — like in 2017, when UberEATS flipped from a flat delivery fee to a complicated (and cheaper) system for their independent contractors.

A quasi-union named Ride Share Drivers United has formed in Australia, and it’s getting a lot of support from established workers’ movements like the Transport Workers Union.

But there isn’t a clear end to the working conditions in sight.

So What Does The Greens’ New Bill Do?

Bandt wants to amend the Fair Work Act 2009, to include a clear line saying that all sharing economy workers — whether they’re independent contractors or employees — should receive the minimum wage.

Companies like Uber and Deliveroo will still be able to sign on workers as independent contractors, but they won’t be able to undercut the minimum wage if they do so.

Bandt, a former industrial relations lawyer, said that this was about protecting “basic rights and conditions”.

“If Deliveroo won’t deliver its workers better pay and conditions, the Greens will,” he said.”The convenience of the new economy shouldn’t come at the cost of decent pay and conditions.”

The pushback from sharing economy corporations is that they offer their workers a huge amount of flexibility, and that flexibility is traded off with lower wages and less entitlement.

But Bandt doesn’t think that’s enough.

“With new business models opening up every day, we must make sure advances in technology make people’s lives better.”