ALP to Guarantee Working Conditions for Gig Workers

The ALP has committed to extend the powers of the Fair Work Commission to include “employee-like forms of work.” Labor says it will allow better protection for people in app-based gig work from exploitation and dangerous working conditions.

“Being in secure work means people can get a bank loan to buy a home or start a business,” Albanese argues. “It means they can take leave when they’re sick or need to look after their loved ones, without putting their jobs at risk. 

“It means they can have the confidence to spend money to stimulate the Australian economy, boost growth and create more jobs.”

Anthony Albanese’s “Better Future” speech

If elected, Labor’s changes would also limit businesses’ ability to keep employees as casuals long-term. Fixed-term contracts, similarly, cannot be renewed for more than 24 consecutive months before the employee is transitioned to permanent status.

The changes have been campaigned for strongly by the Transport Workers’ Union. The campaign gathered momentum late last year, after five delivery riders were killed on the roads in two months.

Labor then outlined many of the principles it is taking to the election when, in February 2021, it opposed the LNP’s “industrial relations omnibus bill.”

The changes are opposed by the Australian Industry Group and the LNP. In arguing against the change, former attorney-general Christian Porter argued that avoiding leave and other entitlements for gig workers and casuals saves businesses $20 billion a year.

Global Shifts against Gig Work

Labor’s proposals are part of a global shift. Last Thursday, the European Commission requested submissions toward an EU directive on gig work, following release of its draft guidelines.

The directive, if implemented by individual European countries, would force gig workers to be classified as employees. 

According to Reuters, “Brussels estimates its plan would change the employment status of up to 4.1 million of 28 million Europeans currently classed as self-employed, entitling them to a minimum wage, sick pay, holidays and legal protections.”

In Spain, under a centre-left government, Uber drivers are now required to be legally employed. Uber formally employs all of its drivers in Spain through staffing agencies.

California introduced a law that gig workers be treated as employees. The law was actually overturned by Californian voters at a referendum, but then effectively reinstated by the Supreme Court in August this year when it found the referendum to be federally unconstitutional.

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