NSW govt cracks down on gig economy workers

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

Gig economy workers in NSW will be tracked with a unique identification number and face “tough” new penalties under state government reforms which the workers union said could lead to more delivery rider deaths.

NSW Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson announced a series of reforms focused on the gig economy, with many specifically targeting delivery riders rather than the tech companies themselves.

Under the new rules, which the state government will aim to have passed by Parliament by the end of the year, delivery riders will face fines for riding unsafely, and will be issued with a unique ID number by the companies they are working for.

The changes will also require the gig economy giants to provide their riders with personal protection equipment and up-to-date training.

“Enough is enough. We can no longer stand by while riders continue placing themselves and others at risk. It is completely unacceptable that our inspectors found almost nine in 10 food delivery riders were not wearing safe, hi-visibility clothing and 40 per cent were observed riding in an unsafe manner,” Mr Anderson said.

“That’s why we will now introduce the toughest safety requirements for food delivery platforms and riders anywhere in Australia. Together these measures provide the necessary regulatory tools to drive compliance within the industry and ultimately help create a culture where safety comes first.”

The NSW will attempt to reform the gig economy

The crackdown on gig economy workers has been slammed by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which said it amounts to a “shield for Silicon Valley behemoths”.

“These new laws are not about protecting the most exploited workers in our society. This is a shield for Silicon Valley behemoths and their sham business models which are literally killing riders on our roads,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

“Riders will be tracked, targeted and penalised by police while companies are still not required to provide helmets. It is disappointing to see Mr Anderson blaming the deaths of four riders on this exploited and pressured workforce.

“Riders can lose their below minimum wage job in an instant if they cannot meet the unrealistic deadlines set by apps and algorithms – an issue the NSW government has refused to listen to or address.”

The new policies have emerged following a NSW government taskforce established after the deaths of four delivery riders in the space of two months last year. The taskforce released a 14-page report last month with a number of recommendations to government.

The TWU and a number of delivery riders earlier pulled out of the taskforce, labelling it “farcical” and slamming it for not going far enough in its recommendations.

“The NSW government is using its farcical taskforce to prop up its attack on workers. Riders and the TWU withdrew from the taskforce over strong suspicions it was being held hostage by tech giants like Uber and that riders suffering under their deadly systems would become a public target, as has been announced today,” Mr Kaine said.

The new penalties for riders and other requirements for gig economy companies will be introduced as amendments to the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017.

The proposed new laws come just weeks after the Fair Work Commission ruled that Deliveroo rider kicked off the platform last year was an “employee” of the company, which could have significant ramifications for the wider sector.

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