Victorian government gig economy survey shows workers missing out on insurance

The survey is the last stage of work before the Victorian government releases its final report into its inquiry into the On-Demand Workforce.

New research commissioned by the Victorian government has revealed more than 30% of respondents, who were gig economy workers, do not know whether their platform has a dispute resolution process, while nearly half of the surveyed gig economy workers reported that their platform did not provide work-related insurance.

The survey, conducted by researchers at Queensland University of Technology, the University of Adelaide, and University of Technology Sydney, is part of the Victorian government's ongoing inquiry into the On-Demand Workforce.

The Victorian government launched its inquiry back in September 2018 to specifically examine the treatment of workers and how they are remunerated.

Touted by the Victorian government as the country's "largest ever study" on the gig economy, the survey of more 14,000 people showed that nearly two-thirds bought goods or services through online marketplaces in the previous 12 months.

The Digital Platform Work in Australia: Prevalence, Nature and Impact report [PDF] also revealed the five most common platforms used by Australians to undertake work are Airtasker, Uber, Freelancer, Uber Eats, and Deliveroo.

It indicated that 7.1% of survey respondents worked through a digital platform or had done so in the previous 12 months.

Must read: Won't get fooled again: Gig economy second wave begins to break    

When asked what they were earning from their main digital platform, 40% of respondents said they did not know how much they were paid per hour.

At the same time, the study showed an average of 4.9 hours per week was spent on unpaid platform activities designed to obtain work, such as updating profiles, quoting, searching, and bidding for work.

"This data shows us just how much we rely on gig economy workers. It's essential they are given the protection they deserve," Minister for Industrial Relations Tim Pallas said.

"Our landmark inquiry will ensure we can plug the gaps and fix the inequities in the system to ensure these workers have the right to fair pay and safe working conditions."

The Victorian government is due to release its final report later this month, nearly two years after the inquiry was launched. 

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said the survey highlighted how the gig economy needs to be regulated. 

"This survey is an eye-opener on what life is like for the thousands of people who deliver our food and transport us around. The Federal Government can no longer ignore the grim reality that gig work unregulated is creating an army of exploited workers who have no choice but to accept low rates, unpaid work, and a scenario where neither their health nor their income is protected,"  TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

Last month, Deliveroo was served with legal action at the Australian Fair Work Commission (FWC) by a former food delivery rider, who alleges that they were unfairly dismissed.

According to the former rider, Diego Franco, Deliveroo terminated his contract in April because of slow deliveries but the company not give specifics as to when and where the problem occurred.  

Transport Workers Union (TWU) assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh said the case showed how the federal government needed to step up to protect workers by classifying food delivery riders as employees rather than independent contractors. 

"The treatment of these so-called essential workers is appalling," he said. "They work weekends, nights, and in appalling weather with no penalty rates, minimum rates, or even guaranteed pay. They get no sick leave if they are unwell and need to stay at home. They get no superannuation or annual leave. And when they are no longer useful to the company they can be sacked without warning or the chance to appeal." 

Meanwhile, the Queensland government in April announced it held meetings with "key stakeholders" to address the delivery fees that food delivery services such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats have been charging local cafe and restaurants.

Deliveroo then announced at the start of May it would remove the commission fee for pick-up orders and drop its commission rate to 5% where restaurants provide their own delivery to help local businesses that have been impacted by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Updated 24 June 2020, 2:30pm (AEST): TWU comments added.

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