Workers getting jobs through apps like Airtasker and Uber Eats are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to, are often unaware of their current hourly rate and most are not covered by work-related insurance.
Research from Queensland University of Technology, the University of Adelaide and University of Technology Sydney, commissioned by the Victorian Government, showed about seven per cent of 14,000 respondents had found work on a digital platform (the gig economy) in the past year and 40 per cent of those did not know how much they were earning per hour.
It showed younger people (aged 18-34) and males were accepting work through digital platforms in higher proportions than other demographic groups.
About 60 per cent were paid per completed task or job. Nearly half said their main platform did not cover them for any type of work-related insurance like injuries or professional indemnity.
The research is part of the Victorian Government’s Inquiry into the Victorian on-demand workforce which has been set up to investigate whether workers are being paid enough, if they are safe and receiving adequate protections.
All workers, including those in the gig economy, are entitled to rights and protections against exploitation.
While the research shows the majority of workers undertaking gig economy work through apps were not relying on the work as their sole source of income, the ones who were relying on this work may be earning less than Australia’s minimum wage – which is an hourly rate of $19.49.
A 2018 Transport Workers Union Survey found that 67 per cent of ride-share drivers who worked full time in the role were earning less than the average weekly wage ($1,586).
It’s extremely worrying that workers on platforms such as Uber Eats are being denied access to basic rights and protections.
For example, if they get into an accident, their workplace won’t assist with compensation.
The Fair Work Ombudsman recently announced that following its two-year investigation, the ombudsman’s view was that Uber drivers were not considered Uber employees.
The FWO found drivers to be independent contractors which means they don’t receive and don’t have any entitlement to a minimum wage, superannuation, annual leave, sick leave or any benefits that employees receive.
The transport food industry is growing but the rights of the drivers are not growing with it.
These work practices are taking us back decades, even if this on-demand work does provide people with flexibility of hours by choosing to work when they can.
If you’re earning below the minimum wage, you are being ripped off, especially if you are not receiving benefits.
This emerging industry needs better regulation.
The expansion of the gig economy where workers are exploited also undermines the incomes and value afforded to experienced workers who are paid salaries and wages in accordance with Enterprise Bargaining Agreements and awards that were fought for over decades.
A decision like this cements the systemic casualisation and insecurity of the modern workforce.
Workplace safety issues are not just about compensation but about failure of these companies to take responsibility for safety of the workers. Workers are being injured on the job without any financial or practical support through their rehabilitation or return to work.
The survey showed the types of work that current platform workers were performing included transport and food delivery, professional services work, odd jobs or maintenance work and writing or translation work.
It said temporary residents, people living with a disability and those who speak a language other than English at home were more likely to participate in digital platform work.
We know that workers from migrant backgrounds and those with disabilities tend to be more vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment, so continued expansion of the gig economy without a corresponding increase in protections and pay for those workers could be really harmful.