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Uber and union sign deal to protect workers

A new deal between gig economy company Uber and the Transport Workers’ Union will ensure vital Australian workers are no longer exploited, the union’s national secretary says.

Under the agreement signed Tuesday, Uber and the TWU agreed to support the federal government in drafting legislation for an independent body to create industry-wide standards, including a minimum wage.

The two are also committed to further discussions on setting industry standards.

“It’s an amazing moment in Australian industrial history,” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine told reporters on Wednesday.

“It means Australians… can have confidence that the worker providing these services is safe, equipped and capable of taking care of themselves and their families.”

Uber and the union will take their case to the federal government, in hopes that legislative changes will be developed and approved in parliament this year.

Labor Senator Tony Sheldon, who chaired a Senate job security inquiry, said the new administration is committed to improving standards for workers in the gig economy.

“It’s high on the priority list,” Senator Sheldon told reporters.

“But you have to have good consultation to make sure (there are) no unintended consequences, with the clear result of giving people minimum rights and basic rights for workers and making this industry sustainable.”

The new agreement comes after Uber signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Transport Workers’ Federation, of which TWU is a member, in February to begin discussions on global working conditions.

The TWU signed a similar agreement with delivery platform DoorDash in May.

“Companies have been pushing against this move for a long time,” Kaine said. “But it’s true to say there’s a sense of momentum.

“We’re now talking to other companies besides Uber and DoorDash, and we think the momentum is there for those companies to understand that this is the way forward.”

A report published in April by the NSW House of Lords called for better protection for workers in the gig economy after five food deliverers were killed in two months at the end of 2020.

A Victorian Parliamentary inquiry also found that gig economy platforms deliberately structured employee schemes to avoid Australian regulations.

The new agreement between Uber and TWU will raise the standard of work for more than 100,000 people, said Dom Taylor, Uber chief executive.

“We want to see a level playing field for the industry and maintain the flexibility that DIYers value most,” Taylor said in a statement.

“It is critical that earners remain part of the regulatory conversation and that their collective voices are heard.”

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