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Workers pay price as gig economy avoids regulations, inquiry finds

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Despite being commissioned by the Victorian government, Ms James found the federal government was best placed to drive change, given its responsibility for the national system of workplace laws.

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She recommended the development of a code of conduct to better protect on-demand workers, the removal of barriers to collective bargaining, and a one-stop-shop support agency to help workers when disputes arise.

If the federal government would not lead, Victoria should work with other states to drive legislative changes to offer greater fairness for platform workers, she said.

While he would not comment specifically on the recommendations, state Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas said there was a clear need for laws to be tightened to support gig workers.

“The gig economy is relied upon by millions of consumers and workers across the country, but there are holes when it comes to industrial relations that put workers’ rights to fair pay and conditions at risk,” he said.

Previously, Mr Pallas had indicated the state could act alone to bolster protections for gig economy workers.

On-demand workers are more likely to be young, urban and male. People who speak a language other than English at home are 1.5 times more likely to be platform workers.

An estimated 40 per cent of on-demand workers surveyed as part of the inquiry were not even aware of their rates of pay.

“Platforms have been deliberate in framing their arrangements with workers,” Ms James found.

“This enables platforms to avoid the operation of close and detailed labour regulation while other businesses are carrying the costs of complying with those requirements.”

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Those pressures are becoming more acute as the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic tear through every aspect of society, Ms James told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

“What we have is a large number of people in need of income, looking for work in a labour market which has now become even more competitive,” she said.

“So the gig economy has provided invaluable access to work for people, but also under terms and conditions that are not regulated. And so what we have is vulnerable people with very little leverage in the labour market really, with little or no capacity to have a say in what the arrangements are in place in order to access this work.”

Zaheer Qazi spent three years working for Uber and Deliveroo while he completed his degree in Melbourne. During that time he was also the national welfare officer for the Council of International Students Australia.

Mr Qazi said he had been told horror stories about international students working for food delivery sites being attacked but having little recourse to workplace support or compensation.

“People are feeling more fearful with COVID,” he said. “They can’t afford to lose work and these companies know it.”

Zaheer Qazi says "fearful" gig workers "can't afford to lose work and these companies know it".

Zaheer Qazi says “fearful” gig workers “can’t afford to lose work and these companies know it”.Credit:Joe Armao

Freelancer.com chief executive Matt Barrie said while other platforms limited the amount of pay workers received, his company “liberates workers”.

“The gig economy is not one homogenous industry with a uniform business model,” he said.

“Any legislation must be cognisant of that and should be at the federal level, not the state level.”

Airtasker chief executive Tim Fung said the gig economy comprised a number of different platform types. “The needs of workers on each of these different platforms should be prioritised when considering how best to apply a regulatory framework.”

A Deliveroo spokeswoman declined to comment. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald also approached Uber for comment but did not receive a response before deadline.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Christian Porter said given Mr Porter had not seen the report, he could not comment on its findings or recommendations.

In January, Mr Porter said: “The evolution of the gig economy also presents challenges which the government is committed to addressing.”

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Judge rejects Prop. 22 backers’ attempt to change gig-work ballot language

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A Sacramento Superior Court judge on Tuesday rebuffed backers of Proposition 22, a referendum aiming to keep some gig workers as independent contractors, in their lawsuit claiming California Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote a slanted description of their measure.

The attorney general writes the title, summary and label of an initiative that appear on the California ballot and ballot pamphlet and are vital to communicating to voters.

The Yes on 22 campaign charged that Becerra was biased and wrote language painting the measure in a negative light because he is suing Uber and Lyft, two of the major backers of Prop. 22, over their driver classification. Becerra’s lawsuit says that Uber and Lyft drivers should be employees under AB5, California’s new gig-work law — which is exactly what Prop. 22 seeks to avoid.

Besides Uber and Lyft, the other backers of Prop. 22 are DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart. The five companies have put up $110 million so far in their quest to convince voters that drivers and couriers should not be employees, which the companies say would destroy the flexibility those workers rely on. It would also cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars, and potentially increase the prices consumers pay for rides and deliveries.

Becerra’s language accurately informs voters about the initiative, wrote Judge Laurie Earl in a tentative decision that will become final unless Yes on 22 requests a hearing.

The campaign has until Wednesday afternoon to make that request. The hearing would occur Thursday morning with each side limited to 30 minutes of oral arguments. Yes on 22 did not immediately say whether it will request the hearing.

The title written by Becerra that Yes on 22 objects to reads: “Exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from providing employee benefits to certain drivers.”

The Yes on 22 campaign charged that “exempt” was a prejudicial term.

But the judge disagreed. “Read as a whole, this is not false, misleading, or inaccurate, and the use of the word ‘exempt’ in the ballot title does not make it so,” Earl wrote. In fact, she wrote, the ballot measure would exempt the companies from complying with various state laws applicable to employees.

Earl rejected Yes on 22’s claim that Becerra’s case against Uber and Lyft meant he was not impartial.

“This lawsuit is irrelevant,” the judge wrote, pointing to precedents that elected state officers are entitled to take public positions on matters of public importance.

The Yes on 22 provided a written statement responding to the ruling from Doug Mead, a freelance writer and Uber Eats and Postmates driver from Palm Springs. The campaign said he was among thousands of drivers who support remaining independent workers.

“The Attorney General is playing politics with the jobs of nearly one million Californians and threatening the services so many families rely on,” Mead’s statement read. “His biased and prejudicial description of Prop. 22 only benefits his special-interest supporters while doing a disservice to California voters.”

The No on 22 campaign, which is backed by organized labor, applauded the tentative ruling.

“The judge’s thoughtful deliberation on this ruling ensures that every Californian will know the unbiased truth when they fill out their ballots in November: Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash are trying to buy themselves a special exemption to roll back drivers’ rights,” said Mike Roth, spokesman for the No on Prop. 22 campaign.

Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @csaid



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IWGB wins workers status and rights for gig economy couriers at CitySprint

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CITYSPRINT couriers’ status as workers with rights was confirmed once and for all today after the company was dragged back to an employment tribunal for the third time.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) claimed victory in its battle to gain basic employment rights for five gig-economy workers at the company. 

CitySprint had changed workers’ contracts rather than comply with a previous ruling that they are entitled to holiday pay and the legal minimum wage. 

The company could now be forced to give them thousands of pounds in lieu of the holidays they were denied once its financial liability is established at a final hearing in October.

Claimant Phil Weber said: “This victory over CitySprint shows what strength there is in being part of an active front-line union like the IWGB. I hope it gives others courage. 

“So many ‘gig economy’ courier companies wrongly classify their workforce as self-employed independent contractors. 

“We all know they’re playing the system to deny basic rights like holiday pay and pension contributions, but most workers are afraid to stand up for themselves because, as it is, there’s not enough work to go around and so little job security. We’re left fighting for scraps. 

“But when we are united and fight together, things can turn out very differently.”

The IWGB said it was appalled that it had had to take the company to an employment tribunal three times because the company “was so determined” to deny workers basic protections. 

But yesterday’s victory shows that even when terms of contracts are manipulated, union organising can still win the fight for workers’ rights, the IWGB added. 

General secretary Dr Jason Moyer Lee said: “CitySprint and other ‘gig economy’ companies are making a mockery of the British legal system.  

“If the law were enforced and sanctions were real, CitySprint wouldn’t have dreamed of simply acting like it hadn’t already lost a tribunal claim over its couriers’ workers’ rights. 

“In the absence of the state enforcing the law, the IWGB will continue to hold these cowboy companies to account.”

A separate £43,668.86 holiday pay claim is being made against Royal Mail-owned eCourier on behalf of three couriers transferred from CitySprint.

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Gig-Workers Across CA Protest in Advance of Judge’s Ruling

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Gig-Workers Across California Protest on Thursday 8/6 in Advance of Judge’s Ruling

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Gig-Workers Demand That Uber And Lyft Obey AB 5

This Thursday, August 6, gig-workers across the state of California will be participating in actions demanding that Uber and Lyft obey AB 5 and immediately reclassify their workers as employees. Workers will also be demanding that the companies drop their Prop 22 Ballot Initiative (which the company’s have committed to spend $110m on) which would roll back gig-workers’ rights. This statewide day of action comes in advance of a judge’s ruling on the preliminary injunction motion filed by the California Attorney General in the state’s lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, which will come down at 1:30 PM on Thursday.

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“Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe this moment,” Seth Klarman noted in his second-quarter letter to the Baupost Group investors.  Commenting on the market developments over the past six months, the value investor stated that events, which would typically occur over an extended time frame, had been compressed into just a few months. He noted Read More

In Oakland, drivers from Gig Workers Rising, Rideshare Drivers United & We Drive Progress will be holding a rally titled “Workers Can’t Wait” to demand the employee status they are legally owed under AB 5. Workers will gather at the East Oakland Lyft Hub and, starting at 11:30 AM, various drivers will speak about the grave mistreatment by the companies and demanding that voters vote no on Prop 22.

In Los Angeles, Mobile Workers Alliance and Rideshare Drivers United will host a joint press conference at a Lyft hub. The action is scheduled to begin at 10:30 AM.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and a coalition of city attorneys filed an injunction in June to require Uber and Lyft to immediately begin obeying AB 5, which took effect in January. AB 5 requires the companies to reclassify their drivers as employees. Uber and Lyft argue that they shouldn’t be required to follow the law until after voters vote on Prop 22 in November. Becerra argues the harm currently facing drivers is so great that it would be neglectful to wait until the end of the current litigation. The law is clearly on the workers’ side.



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