A landmark agreement between online job-posting platform Airtasker and Unions NSW aims to increase minimum rates of pay and improve conditions for workers in the “gig economy”.
Having criticised Airtasker last year for posting individual job tasks, commonly known as gigs, at pay rates well below national minimum award rates, Unions NSW is now working with Airtasker to promote pay rates that are above the minimum rates.
Workers using Airtasker will also be offered an affordable and flexible insurance product similar to workers’ compensation for the first time to help them get cover for workplace injuries and illness.
Unions NSW and Airtasker have also agreed to introduce an independent disputes resolution process overseen by the Fair Work Commission.
Unions NSW said Fair Work Commission president Ian Ross and senior deputy president Peter Sams have agreed to work with the parties on a voluntary basis.
Airtasker chief executive and co-founder Tim Fung said his online platform will update its price guide to reflect award wages or higher pay rates as advised by Unions NSW.
“The content allows people to understand what minimum wages are,” Mr Fung said.
“From Airtasker’s point of view, our mission is to empower people to realise the value of their skills. So both of us are trying to achieve the same outcome by working together.”
A personal injury insurance policy has been developed for release later this year as an option for Airtasker workers.
Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said the new agreement was a “huge” step towards improving the pay and workplace protections for people working in the gig economy.
“This agreement is a huge advance for wages and conditions of those working through the Airtasker platform,” Mr Morey said.
“It establishes an important beachhead for regulating the gig economy. Others should follow Airtasker’s example and consider the ethical dimension of their impact.
“This is the first plank of a new floor we are building under the gig economy. The fact work is arranged through a website or app should not mean that all notions of decency and fairness are ignored. Airtasker to its credit has recognised this.”
Mr Morey said Australian workers had fought for conditions including the minimum wage, workplace health and safety and independent dispute resolution over more than a century.
“This agreement proves that the digital reorganisation of work can flexibly adopt those standards,” he said.
“This agreement is only the beginning. Across a range of industries, wages and conditions are being shredded by gig economy platforms.”
Labour market expert, Professor John Buchanan from the University of Sydney business school said online job platforms are not usually interested in working with unions.
“This is an important shift in the way in which new economic players are interacting with the collective voice of workers,” he said.
“Labour standards start from modest bases. This isn’t a full-blown industrial agreement with rock-solid enforceable rights.
“What it provides is a point of reference for defining relations in the realm of economic practice which has been labour-standards free.”
Professor Buchanan said the new agreement was significant.
“This is very important. This is like the Normandy landings,” he said.
“They haven’t got to Berlin yet, but they are on the beach and there is a clear beachhead.”
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