Published: 19/05/2021
Category: On The Job
Published: 19/05/2021
Category: On The Job
In a major boost for gig workers, TWU member Diego Franco (pictured) has won his unfair dismissal case against Deliveroo

The curtain is coming down on the exploitation of workers in the gig economy.

A landmark ruling the Fair Work Commission (FWC) could spell the end of the all profit, no responsibility approach to workers used by tech-giant platforms.

Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) member Diego Franco had been a Deliveroo rider on Sydney streets for over three years when he was sacked by the tech-giant without notice in April 2020, just as the pandemic’s full impact was being felt.

On Tuesday, Franco won his unfair dismissal case against Deliveroo, winning the right for reinstatement to his job and back pay for the countless hours of work he was denied by the company’s actions.

National Secretary of the TWU, Michael Kaine, spoke to On the Job immediately after the landmark decision and said that the ruling will have a seismic impact on the business model used by tech-giant platforms like Deliveroo and Uber Eats which classify workers as sole contractors, leaving them with minimal pay, no job security, and no entitlements.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine has welcomed the FWC ruling but believes ‘underpinning laws have to change’. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

“This is an industry that lost five riders killed in the space of 11 weeks last year. It’s an industry that is literally squeezing the life out of workers. These companies deliberately misclassified those workers to get commercial benefit,” Kaine said.  

“That’s what Amazon backed Deliveroo is doing. It’s what Uber is doing with Uber Eats.

“This ruling is an important step forward in a fight that the federal government cannot ignore. It has to understand that our laws are outdated and need to be brought up to speed.”

ACTU President Michele O’Neil welcomed the ruling and saw it as vindication for workers and their unions, which have been fighting the scourge of gig economy exploitation for a number of years.

“This is a great win for Diego and his union. Employers can’t simply tell workers they are contractors in order to strip away rights,” said O’Neil.

“Insecure work takes certainty and security away from millions of Australian workers and their families. Workers in the gig economy often work excessive hours but live in fear of being booted off an app with no notice.”

World renowned barrister and activist, Geoffrey Robertson QC, told ABC TV’s “The Drum” that the FWC ruling mirrors similar recent decisions in British courts. Robertson believes there is a fundamental cultural shift underway in attitudes toward frontline workers like delivery riders, due to the experience of the pandemic.

“I think we can see on a broad level that there is a greater appreciation of workers – of manual workers and people who don’t have wealthy parents or university degrees but who are supermarket workers or carers or deliverers,” Robertson said.  

“They have a new dignity because they’re called key workers or essential workers, and there’s recognition that they deserve the dignity of being represented by a union and having the rights of employees.”

Michael Kaine is adamant that the momentum for change of the status of workers in the gig economy is irresistible.

“We’ve clearly seen momentum building in the last number of weeks with Menulog coming out recently and saying that it’s going to trial employee like arrangements in conjunction with the TWU in the Sydney market.

“The underpinning laws have to change because you can imagine the likes of Deliveroo and Uber simply ignoring this decision and requiring workers to go case by case to the court to establish rights for themselves and that can’t be right,” said Kaine.

“The federal government should take a leaf out of the books of the UK, of Spain and the Netherlands and before that the US and bring laws up to date.

“We would hope that Deliveroo will now immediately sit down with workers and the union and figure out how it is that there is going to be appropriate protections, pay and notification if there’s concern about work performance, so that these workers can be on par with other workers in our community who have fought hard to establish rights and standards for decades.”

Kaine paid tribute to Diego Franco, who stood his ground and decided to fight for his right to work with dignity and certainty, and against the exploitation employed by a global corporate powerhouse.

“This decision is an important vindication for a worker who decided to stand up. It’s really hard when you are a worker that’s expected to take on a company backed by a behemoth like Amazon, and he did it and he won.

“This is a David and Goliath story that needs to be told, and the federal government needs to pay attention to because the worm is turning and we’re at that point where rights have to be established in the gig economy.

“Otherwise, it’s going to pervade the rest of our economy and do irreparable damage to Australian society.”

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Deliveroo decision changes the game for workers

Deliveroo decision changes the game for workers