Better late than never.
Food delivery tech operator Menulog has finally come around to what Unions have been saying for years – that its contracted riders and drivers should be considered employees and given the same rights and entitlements as other workers.
At a Senate inquiry hearing earlier in the week, Menulog Managing Director Morten Belling said that his company is committed to a pilot employment initiative for its workers in Sydney.
The decision is a huge crack in the gig economy business model, one that has been built off the back of workers doing difficult and dangerous work, with insecure hours, no sick pay, leave entitlements, Superannuation or holiday pay.
Transport Workers Union (TWU) National Secretary, Michael Kaine, told Nine Media in Melbourne that the tide is turning on the rampant exploitation of workers in the gig economy.
“This is an important move by Menulog which really recognizes that the time has come to bring this type of work into the modern economy in a way that’s going to support workers and families, and support a good sustainable business,” Kaine said.
It’s been all profit and no responsibility for the tech giants in the food and services delivery caper. The pressure will continue to mount on the likes of Deliveroo, Uber Eats and others to do likewise, according to the TWU National Secretary.
“Up until this point, food delivery companies have quite deliberately misclassified their workers, so they’ve pushed them outside of the normal protections that employees in the rest of our economy get.
“They don’t have any workers’ compensation, so if they’re injured, there’s no capacity for them to have support.”
Morten Belling told the inquiry that a series of appalling workplace accidents that claimed the lives of five gig economy delivery workers last year shook him out of his complacency regarding the plight of workers in the food delivery industry.
“This hasn’t happened specifically on Menulog, but when people start getting killed out there and hospitalised, that’s where we draw the line,” Belling said.
“It doesn’t really matter if they get killed on the Menulog platform or another platform; we play in the same industry. And we don’t want to be part of that. So yes, it may cost us more, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Belling told the inquiry hearing that there was no reason why other delivery companies couldn’t follow Menulog’s lead and give their workers proper employee rights and entitlements.
ACTU National Secretary, Sally McManus, put the heat on the other tech platforms, saying there was no excuse for not doing the right thing by its workers.
“We congratulate Menulog for taking the step to finally accept their workers should have equal rights to all other Australian workers,” McManus said.
“If Menulog moves to make this more than a trial, we will be calling on all Australians to ditch other delivery apps and only use Menulog, and any other companies who join them. People will be able to benefit from the convenience without also buying exploitation.”
Hireup is a tech platform that provides people with disabilities with support workers. It has about 6,0000 workers a month on its books. Unlike the food delivery giants who dodge and weave their responsibilities to employees with gig economy contracts, Hireup gives its workers minimum wage access, workers compensation if they get hurt, and provides superannuation contributions.
Hireup co-founder Jordan O’Reilly agrees that the heat is now on the tech platform gig economy operators to step up.
“Menulog’s move challenges other online platform businesses to join them and follow Hireup’s example. An economy where flexibility, choice and control are combined with fundamental rights of employment is one we should all want to see,” O’Reilly told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Sally McManus said workers shouldn’t have to wait for companies and bosses to see the light on this issue. She believes it is time for the Federal Government to act with legislation.
“So-called gig-economy corporations have benefitted from unfair competition, undercutting and undermining not just workers’ right but local businesses that do the right thing. This has to stop. The Federal Government needs to act to bring in a level playing field and stop letting these corporations get away with exploiting Australian workers.”