- The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has vowed to take Uber to court after an unfair dismissal case by an Uber Eats driver.
- Uber Eats driver Amita Gupta’s unfair dismissal claim was rejected by the Fair Work Commission back in August after she was classed as an independent contractor and not an employee.
- The TWU is set to appeal the decision, calling it an “unfair sacking” and “exploitation”.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is taking Uber to court following a food delivery driver’s unfair dismissal case.
According to The Australian, the TWU is appealing a decision by the Fair Work Commission which rejected an unfair dismissal claim by sacked Uber Eats driver Amita Gupta.
The union made the announcement on Twitter, saying “the Federal Government doesn’t seem to care and we won’t stand by and let the abuse of workers continue.”
We've now got @Uber in our sights. We're taking a case after a food delivery driver's unfair sacking and exploitation. The Federal Government doesn't seem to care and we won't stand by and let the abuse of workers continue. See you in court @Uber #Rights4Riders #GigWorkersRising pic.twitter.com/7WhDnh9UBb
— TWU Australia (@TWUAus) September 15, 2019
In the initial Fair Work unfair dismissal case undertaken in Adelaide, Gupta was a registered Uber Eats delivery driver who was assisted by her husband Santosh. She said she and her husband completed more than 2,200 deliveries between September 2017 and January 2019 before she was let go on January 15, 2019.
Both Gupta and her husband suffer from several disabilities, and delivery work was suggested by a health professional to aid recovery, the Fair Work case stated.
According to The Australian, Santosh Gupta said they were paid $19,000 over 18 months but had work expenses of $9,000 for items such as such as petrol and vehicle costs.
In the same report, Santosh alleges that the pair at one point were paid $300 for 96 hours of logged work. And when Amita was 10 minutes late with a delivery, she was cut off from accessing the phone app entirely – or, as one might reasonably say, sacked.
Amita then lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission.
Uber, in response, argued that Amita had no actual relationship with Uber Australia and was not an employee.
On August 23, the Fair Work Commission rejected Amita’s claim as it said she was not considered an employee and thus was not protected from unfair dismissal.
“Uber welcomed the Fair Work Commission’s decision on this matter,” an Uber spokesperson told Business Insider Australia. “It reflected what delivery partners tell us – that they value the freedom and flexibility the Uber app provides.”
In its appeal, the TWU said Fair Work failed to take into account that Amita was not operating her own independent business.
“It is exploitation and I thought it would be good to take the matter to court for the other drivers,” Santosh told The Australian.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine told The Australian that Uber drivers don’t have control over their work as one would expect of a contractor sole trader in other circumstances. “They cannot set rates and are entirely directed by an algorithm which allocates work based on an arbitrary ratings system,” he said.
According to Uber, Uber Eats delivery fees are calculated using a drop off fee, pick up fee and a fee per kilometre depending on the fastest route. On its website, Uber notes a rate of $5.50 per pick up, $3.50 per drop off and $2.20 per kilometre. Those figures are before a service fee is deducted by Uber.
Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus said on Twitter that this was a “major case” and that it “could change workers rights across the gig economy.”
The decision to appeal the Fair Work decision comes as California passed a bill that forces “gig economy” companies such as Uber and Lyft to treat their workers as employees rather than contractors.
Uber has vowed to fight against the California bill. Last week, the company’s chief legal officer Tony West told reporters that Uber drivers are “properly classified as independent,” adding the firm will “respond to claims of misclassification in arbitration and in court.”
The new court appeal by the TWU could signal Australia’s own battle to have Uber drivers given the same rights as permanent employees.
Business Insider Australia has contacted The Transport Workers Union for comment.
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