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Union push to improve delivery riders’ pay and conditions after five deaths in two months | Gig economy

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Australian unions will push for delivery riders’ pay and conditions to be set by the industrial tribunal to tackle a spate of five deaths in two months.

On Wednesday the Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary, Sally McManus, outlined the plan at the National Press Club, as the industrial relations minister Christian Porter accepted “there clearly is an issue” with the safety of the gig economy workers.

Porter revealed in question time he had discussed the problem with the Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine, who told Guardian Australia the union representing riders and drivers will continue to push for a national solution.

In Australia, food delivery riders are classified as independent contractors, responsible for maintaining their own equipment and incentivised to rush orders to achieve rates that amount to less than the minimum wages of $19.84 an hour.

Five food delivery riders have died in road accidents in the past two months. Many were recent migrants or visa-holders who had come to Australia in search of a better life.

McManus said the “shameful tragedy” shows gig economy workers had been “abandoned” by the government, tech giants and inadequate workplace laws.

Asked what solution unions will pursue, McManus said the movement did not want to go down the route attempted by California to reclassify the workers as employees, arguing gig economy companies will attempt to sidestep the laws with small tweaks in their practices.

“We think we have got to get away from talking about employees or not and talk about workers,” she said.

McManus said the “best way” to tackle the issue “is to empower someone like the Fair Work Commission to deem a group of workers [such as] delivery riders, as getting the rights of the Fair Work Act”. That would include the minimum wage, the ability to collectively bargain, and access to paid leave, she said.

Labor’s shadow industrial minister, Tony Burke, last week flagged Labor support for that proposal, describing it as “one option” that could be adopted easily to improve conditions in the gig economy.

By allowing the commission to regulate workers that are “employee-like”, the government could prevent workers “being exploited and receiving less than minimum rates”, he told the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation on Friday.

In question time, Labor MP Josh Burns asked about Chow Khai Shien, who he said “dreamed of owning a restaurant and working as a chef”, but died while delivering food in Melbourne October.

Porter replied he had a “very productive and informative meeting” with Kaine discussing the issue, but occupational health and safety for the drivers “is essentially a state-based responsibility”.

“But there’s no doubt that there are issues to be addressed here as the gig economy gets well and truly indentured into the area of deliveries and food deliveries,” he said.

Porter added that he had “deepest sympathies” for the families of drivers who had accidents.

Porter said there was “no doubt that there is a leadership role for the commonwealth to play” and he committed to raise the issue at the ministerial council with states and territories.

The federal agency, Safe Work Australia, will also investigate “exactly how those laws are not operating in the most efficient way with respect to those drivers”, he said.

Kaine told Guardian Australia it was “a good thing” that Porter had acknowledged the problem, describing it as “progress”.

Although the TWU will also pursue legal change at the state level, Kaine rejected the claim it is solely a state responsibility.

“It’s a federal responsibility – this is a federal government of the same political hue as the one that grabbed responsibility for workplace laws with their WorkChoices legislation, and the same is true of the Independent Contractors Act,” he said.

“They have captured work – so they have to deal with the gaps … They can’t just push it off to the states.”

Kaine argued that work health and safety laws don’t address the underlying pressures including “incredibly low rates of pay”.

Under the TWU proposal, the Fair Work Commission would consider whether classes of worker, like food delivery riders, were “highly dependent” on tech companies for work, and award them higher pay and conditions.

In 2012 the TWU persuaded the Gillard Labor government to create a road safety remuneration tribunal to set the pay and conditions of truck owner-drivers in a bid to improve safety.

The Turnbull government abolished the body in 2016, arguing it disadvantaged independent contractors bidding for work and competing on price against large trucking companies.

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GiG to provide compliance tool to Nano Casino

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Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) has signed an agreement with Finnplay Group-owned Nano Casino, for the provision of its affiliate marketing compliance tool, GiG Comply.

The supplier said the automated marketing compliance solution enables operators to scan web pages for content including links and igaming ‘code red’ words.

It works by using its rules engine to analyse snapshots from affiliate marketing campaigns, and provides operators with the promotional content that is being used to promote its brand.

GiG says the tool is flexible and allows operators to set up their own criteria and checklist parameters that can be tailored to their own market-specific requirements.

“At Nano Casino we strive to ensure not only player satisfaction but also compliance with the different legislation applicable in each jurisdiction we operate in and we believe that our partnership with GiG will make us reach this goal much more efficiently and holistically,” said Daniel Lilja, Nano Casino’s head of marketing.

Jonas Warrer, managing director at GiG Media, added: ‘’It’s now more important than ever for operators to ensure that their marketing efforts meet market-specific legislation and advertising standards globally.”

“We are proud to add Nano Casino to our partners’ list and are happy that they have chosen GiG Comply as their partner of choice to help support them with their marketing compliance strategy for 2021”

The intellectual rights to Nano Casino were transferred to Finnplay Group’s Viral Interactive B2B subsidiary from Global Gaming in July 2020.

Nano is the latest brand to incorporate GiG Comply into its offering. LeoVegas struck a deal with the supplier in December to include the tool into its platform, and it has been used by Betfred since September 2019.

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automation: From automation to gig economy, India needs to work on its skilling program

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For a labour surplus economy, India faces acute shortage of skilled workers. The recent Human Development Report 2020 highlighted that one out of five workers in India is skilled. According to the report, skilled labour as a percentage of the labour force in India stands at 21.2%, and other countries which share a similar position include the likes of Sudan, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Liberia. Amidst the pandemic’s adverse blow to the country’s



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The Europeans rethinking the gig economy model

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A few weeks ago delivery company Just Eat announced plans to move away from using ‘gig economy’ workers, instead offering driver benefits including hourly wages, sick pay and pension contributions.

The company, which merged this year with Netherlands-based rival Takeaway.com, in effect threw down the gauntlet to rivals such as Uber, Deliveroo and Glovo who are still using workers with no employment rights and benefits. 

But Just Eat’s announcement is merely the latest development in a shift across Europe — encouraged by growing regulation and also a growing discourse against gig workers — that has seen others like courier federation CoopCycle look for a new employment model.

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Meanwhile, Uber is awaiting a verdict from the UK Supreme Court, which could force it to pay drivers an hourly minimum wage and holiday pay.

These shifts could see Europe at the vanguard of a global movement away from using gig working — that is, if other European tech companies follow their lead.

“The right thing to do”

Just Eat’s UK managing director Andrew Kenny tells Sifted that the decision on a new employment contract comes from a place of moral responsibility.

“We feel very strongly as a business that affording couriers the protections that come with this model is the right thing to do. We’re fortunate that as a successful and profitable and market leading business that we’re in a position to do so,” he says.

While declining to put a figure on it, Just Eat told Sifted that the costs of this new model are “significant”, as the company will be supplying riders with e-scooters and bikes, which will be collected from a central hub.

“It’s a very different model, we have a hub in central London where the electric bikes and electric scooters are stored, where couriers can come in and take a break, use the facilities and have a hot drink, so you’re dealing with real estate in London and as we expand, elsewhere,” explains Kenny.

While this might present a significant cost for Just Eat, Kenny believes it also goes some way to reducing the stress of vehicle maintenance costs that gig economy workers face.

“We’re providing them with the electric bike or electric scooter, so the maintenance is all taken care of for them. If they have an issue they jump on another bike so they don’t have the same stresses that go with alternative models where you would be responsible naturally for that kind of thing yourself,” he says.

It is worth noting that Just Eat has long differed from competitors like Deliveroo and Uber Eats, in that it also relies on delivery drivers employed by the restaurants themselves. This means that the cost of giving its own couriers employment contracts is relatively cheaper than it would be for rivals, as they represent a smaller portion of the delivery fleet.

Ownership

Another example of a growing response to delivery apps is the rise in rider-owned cooperatives.

Based in Paris, CoopCycle is a federation of courier platform cooperatives that are active in more than 50 cities in eight countries.

CoopCycle helps couriers launch their own cooperative delivery businesses, sharing the tech for the platform software, the customer facing smartphone app, and knowledge around business strategy and pricing.

CoopCycle
The CoopCycle app and web platform

All riders working with the CoopCycle model are employees and, beyond giving couriers stable income, organisers say this also makes the work safer than a pay-per-job model.

“Being a courier is a dangerous job, you have to cycle as fast as you can to complete as many jobs as possible,” says Adrien Claude, European coordinator for CoopCycle. “We are not in a model in which the faster you ride and the more lights you jump, the more money you get.”

“Restaurants are sick of the service because, as couriers aren’t treated well, the consequence is that the service is shit.””

Claude adds that the employee model leads to a better relationship with restaurants: “Restaurants are sick of the (gig economy) platforms. They’re sick of the service because, as couriers aren’t treated well, the consequence is that the service is shit.”

CoopCycle relies on exclusive deals with restaurants to make the service viable in the face of the big, heavily-backed alternatives with big marketing budgets.

“We can’t afford sponsorship with a football club, we can’t afford advertising on TV,” Claude explains. “What we have to sell is something different. We want a virtuous circle between customer, city, restaurant and couriers, with couriers protected.”

The scale of CoopCycle’s operations is understandably much smaller than gig economy models. Claude says that in the federation’s most active cities (Nantes, Berlin, and Grenobles), cooperatives employ between 10-20 couriers.

And while growth-minded observers might sniff at such numbers, the cooperative movement is gaining momentum, with accelerators and incubators popping up on both sides of the Atlantic. 

A third way?

Those who stand accused of exploiting drivers and riders see it differently. 

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi has previously argued for what he calls a “third way”, where drivers keep the flexibility of the self employed model, while still receiving some benefits like holiday pay or sick leave.

This, according to some campaigners, is disingenuous.

James Farrar is a former Uber driver and general secretary of the UK-based App Drivers and Couriers Union. He says that this “third way” already exists in the UK, but is exactly what Uber are arguing against in the courts.

“If you look at what he’s arguing in the US, he’s arguing for something between self employed and employed. We have that here in the UK and they’ve spent the last five years fighting against it, telling everybody the law was obsolete and needed to be updated and of course this couldn’t work,” he says.

James Farrar, general secretary of the UK-based App Drivers and Couriers Union

The tech platform is currently fighting a decision made by a UK employment tribunal that classed Uber drivers as “limb (b)” workers. 

Limb (b) is a legal worker classification in the UK for so-called “dependant contractors”, who are self employed but “provide a service as part of someone else’s business.” 

This, says Farrar, fits the Uber model perfectly, and would entitle drivers to just the kind of benefits that Khosrowshahi claims to support. Uber is currently contesting the classification in the UK Supreme Court.

“It’s a prime example of Uber saying one thing in California and then spending millions on lawyers on this side of the Atlantic to defeat the same argument,” Farrar adds.

Uber’s reluctance to recognise its drivers’ status as limb (b) workers in the UK exposes the hypocrisy of the well-worn argument that “regulations are too out of date” for tech platforms. 

And as pressure mounts on gig economy platforms from courts, competitors and customers alike, big question marks still hang around whether their “growth at all costs” model can be sustainable, and if Europe can come up with a different model.

Tim Smith is Sifted’s Iberia correspondent. He tweets from @timmpsmith



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