Deliveroo’s call for new laws and regulation surrounding the gig economy is just “throwing workers a bone to try to shut them up” while doing nothing to fix the actual issues in the sector, according to the Transport Workers Union.
Deliveroo on Tuesday afternoon made public its submission to the Victorian government’s inquiry into the on-demand workforce, where it argues for a new Future Work Act to govern the controversial sector.
It marks the first time one of the gig economy giants has called for new legislation to regulate their operations.
The suggested new Act would be implemented at federal and state-level across Australia and, according to Deliveroo, would “end the trade-off between flexibility and security for workers”.
But Deliveroo’s proposal emphasises the “flexibility” of its workers and looks to enshrine its controversial core business practice of classifying workers as contractors rather than employees in legislation.
“The answer is the policy challenge of people seeking new ways of working cannot be to deny them the very flexibility that has attracted them to opt for new types of work in the first place, or to entrench a system that disincentives companies from offering contractors greater security in the form of benefits, as the current system does,” Deliveroo said in its submission.
“This would be the consequence of simply reclassifying on-demand workers as ‘employees’, and it would fail to serve the interests or wishes of the on-demand workforce.”
The global tech company attempted to argue that the way in which its riders work is “incomparable” to traditional employment, and should not be classified as such.
“In the on-demand economy people can choose whether to work, where to work, when to work, can reject work at any point, can finish work at any point and can work for multiple companies simultaneously at any point,” the submission said.
“Riders have no obligation to perform any work, and even where they choose to do so there is no obligation to do so personally – with riders able to appoint delegates at their discretion,” it said.
“This is a fundamentally different relationship than that found in more traditional forms of work, and there is no comparable sector that offers this degree of freedom and control for individuals.”
These claims have been slammed by the Transport Workers Union, which has been campaigning for better rights for workers in the gig economy for years.
“Deliveroo is throwing workers a bone to try to shut them up but on-demand workers know they have rights and will keep pushing for them. This is another public relations exercise to try to hide the exploitation that goes on every day,” TWU on-demand economy coordinator Tony Sheldon said.
Mr Sheldon has also rejected Deliveroo’s claims that its workers enjoy flexible conditions.
“Since arriving in Australia Deliveroo has treated its delivery riders appallingly. It says its work is flexible but insists on workers taking on shifts that are difficult to get out of even when there is torrential rain. Last year workers woke up to a 30-40 percent pay cut when it increased delivery distances without warning,” he said.
“This company is simply planning new ways of ensuring its exploitative business model continues. What Deliveroo is proposing is to keep stealing from its workers and denying their rights.”
In its submission, Deliveroo also called for a Future Work Commission to “bring together businesses, unions, political parties and riders to consider legislative reform to give on-demand workers flexibility and security”.
The Victorian state government threw itself into the federal debate over the gig economy last year when it announced the inquiry into the on-demand economy.
At a federal level, a Labor-led Senate committee late last year recommended tighter regulation of the gig economy and an expansion of the definition of an “employee” to include those working for on-demand companies.
This has previously been rejected by the federal government, which has argued that any further regulation could stifle innovation.
These arguments have been mirrored at a state level in Victoria.
The inquiry is investigating the status of workers in the gig economy, allegations of worker exploitation and whether further laws are needed, and is set to report back by the end of the year.