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Australian union charter with Uber shows that respect for gig workers can pay off

news 28 Jun 2022

Uber and Uber Eats have signed a Charter with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) of Australia to set minimum standards and benefits for Uber workers.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) welcomes the Charter both as a landmark in protecting the rights of gig-economy workers in Australia and as a possible model for unions to work with other platforms and in other parts of the world.

“Gig workers often find themselves giving up basic rights in exchange for flexibility,” said Stephen Cotton, the ITF’s General Secretary. “But this is a falsehood. The TWU has shown that by organising workers, you can make a deal for decent pay and conditions. I congratulate the them on leading the way and earnestly hope this is just the beginning of better representation of gig workers everywhere.”

At the core of the Charter, Uber’s ride-share and food delivery businesses and the TWU — an ITF affiliate — have agreed to support the Australian Government in setting up an independent body to create industry-wide standards. These will cover:

  • Minimum, transparent earnings and benefits for platform workers.
  • An efficient mechanism to resolve disputes such as deactivation of platform worker accounts.
  • The rights for workers to be represented by a union and have a collective voice.
  • Enforcement to ensure employers meet the standards.

The agreement is particularly effective because it uses an independent tribunal model which was informed by the union’s experience of Safe Rates pay regulation in the trucking industry. It is important to make sure that agreed standards actually operate in practice. This approach gives due weight to enforcement and is sufficiently flexible to allow for future changes in ways of working.

Continuing talks

The agreement also includes a commitment to continue discussions on industry standards across both the ride-share and delivery industries with a view to improving the quality, safety and security of platform work.

The Charter follows a global Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in February by Uber and the ITF, agreeing a dialogue on working conditions.

“The MOU and the Australian Charter build on a recognition that this relatively new form of business model presents dangers for workers,” said Cotton. “Regulators are starting to wake up to its flaws and are looking at ways of improving working conditions, ending misclassification and ensuring that workers have the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.”

"And by working with Uber, we have shown it is possible to reach common ground on important issues including working conditions, health and safety, social protections and dispute resolution.”

Michael Kaine, National Secretary of the TWU, added: “The principles we signed today are a significant and positive development in the years-long campaign led by gig economy workers to modernise out-of-date industrial laws.  For too long, the balancing of flexibility and the enforcement of strong workplace rights and protections has been seen as a zero-sum game. The TWU and Uber endorse a strong regulatory solution to put the debate to rest.”

Uber says it is keen to see standards enforced in law to create a level playing field for platform operators.

“Whilst Uber and TWU may not seem like obvious allies, we’ve always agreed that driver and delivery partners must come first, and we have struck this important deal to improve workers’ protections,” said Dom Taylor, Uber General Manager. “Gig workers make a significant contribution to our economy and this agreement aspires to lift the standard of platform work for more than 100,000 drivers and delivery people using the Uber platform as well as the broader industry.”