Report finds NSW 'falling behind' in protecting gig workers

The government is urged to establish a tribunal to protect the workforce

Report finds NSW 'falling behind' in protecting gig workers

The government of New South Wales is being urged to commit to further protect gig workers, after a new report found that it is lagging in establishing decent working conditions for the sector.

The NSW Upper House's Future of Work Inquiry, chaired by Daniel Mookhey MLC, found that the state's current laws "perpetuate the overwhelming power imbalance between lone 'contractors' and multinational platform companies." After gathering evidence from eight hearings, it also revealed four key findings:

  1. New South Wales is falling behind other states and comparable nations in developing laws that establish decent work in the gig economy.
  2. Failure to provide gig workers with a minimum wage, paid leave, and other basic workplace entitlements in increasing inequality in New South Wales
  3. Gig workers lack the power to interact and negotiate with on-demand platforms as equals in New South Wales
  4. Failure to provide gig workers with access to a low-cost independent tribunal empowered to hear and decide disputes is leading to injustice in New South Wales.

To address these findings, the report came up with 22 recommendations that could be adopted by the government, with the first an "overriding principle" that urges the state government to "commit to greater protections for gig economy workers, regardless of status." The other recommendations include:

  • NSW government should establish a tribunal or extend the jurisdiction of the existing tribunal, with the power to set minimum pay and conditions for gig workers that provide labour to on-demand platforms regardless of work status
  • The NSW government should introduce a legislation to extend Chapter 6 of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 to include at least rideshare and food delivery workers
  • The NSW government should give the tribunal mentioned before the power to advise on, oversee, and make binding rulings on disputes between gig workers and on-demand platforms
  • The NSW government should require platform companies to publish regular data on their scope and operations, and the earnings of their workers in NSW
  • The NSW government should publicly affirm the right of gig workers to freely associate by joining (or not joining) a union
  • The NSW government should legislate a system on collective bargaining for workers, providing labour to on-demand platforms
  • The NSW government should amend Chapter 6 of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 to establish a collective bargaining system that includes rideshare, food delivery, and parcel delivery workers
  • The NSW government should give the tribunal the power to recognise an agreement reached by an on-demand platform and its workers that improves the minimum conditions a worker is otherwise entitled to
  • The NSW government should study the advantages and disadvantages of replacing payroll tax with a business cash-flow tax
  • The NSW government should legislate a requirement for all on-demand platforms to register with SafeWork NSW before they begin trading
  • The NSW government should introduce discrete and enforceable codes of conduct for work performed by on-demand platforms in the rideshare, food delivery, parcel delivery, and disability sectors of the gig economy
  • The NSW government should introduce a scheme that delivers standardised workplace health and safety training to workers providing labour to on-demand platforms in high-risk industries, which can be recognised by all platforms that a worker chooses to work for
  • The NSW government should partner with on-demand platforms, employers, and unions to develop an enforcement regime which provides for the inspection, auditing, and reporting of an on-demand platform's compliance with workplace health and safety laws by organisations independent of that platform
  • The NSW government should review health and safety legislation to ensure workers in the gig economy are protected by health and safety laws
  • The SafeWork NSW should urgently review the Work Health and Safety Act 2011's provisions for health and safety representatives, to ensure that they are able to operate effectively for gig economy workers
  • The NSW government should provide full workers compensation benefits to on-demand platform workers that are equivalent to the level of benefits currently provided to employees injured in workplaces
  • The NSW government should take greater leadership in the gig economy by actively anticipating the changes taking place, monitoring those changes and their effects, engaging with both business and workers, and establishing the best regulatory measures to ensure optimal outcomes for workers, business, and the broader community
  • The NSW government support ongoing data collection on and research into on-demand work, specific to NSW, including longitudinal research that tracks changes in participation in digital platform work, the experience of workers and businesses, and the outcomes for the economy and broader community

Read more: NSW slams contractor laws

'Time to end the carnage'

The Transport Workers Union of Australia (TWU) welcomed the findings and recommendations from the report and urged the government to fully implement all the recommendations listed in the Parliamentary report.

According to TWU national secretary Michael Kaine, the adoption of the recommendations would advance NSW's industrial system into the 21st century.

"A tribunal with strong powers to set enforceable standards would help end the insecure work crisis undercutting secure jobs by setting gig workers up with fair rates of pay and conditions regardless of their classification," said Kaine. "In the absence of a Federal system with teeth, it's a model that should be considered by all jurisdictions, particularly as States like Victoria and Queensland review how they will tackle these very issues.

"The NSW Government has an opportunity to right its shocking betrayal of gig workers last year when it outrageously sided with food delivery companies to blame riders for a spate of worker deaths. It's time to end the carnage: the NSW Government must adopt this clear roadmap to end the bloodbath on our roads," he added.

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