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Uber Eats driver sacked for being 10 minutes late escalates legal action

This case could have major ramifications in the gig economy. Image: Getty

An Uber Eats delivery worker sacked for being 10 minutes late for a job will on Monday seek a tribunal appeal after the Fair Work Commission rejected her unfair dismissal case. 

The Fair Work Commission in August this year said Adelaide-based Amita Gupta was not an employee of Uber Eats, and as such was not covered under unfair dismissal laws. 

But Gupta and the Transport Workers’ Union today claim that Gupta’s case should be heard due to its public interest, and relevance for Australia’s thousands of gig economy workers. 

“Everyday thousands of food delivery riders experience degrading conditions. With no minimum guaranteed wages, they are expected to remain logged on for work for hours, waiting for delivery orders to come through,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine. 

“When the orders do come through the rates are pitiful. If they are late by even a few minutes or complain they get sacked. We do not believe it is in the public interest for these dystopian conditions to be allowed to endure and become the norm in Australia.”

Kaine said Gupta’s case was an example of the “slave-like conditions” in the gig economy. 

“in one week alone she was logged onto the app for 96 hours and was paid just $300. When she was late with an order by 10 minutes, Uber sacked her. We cannot stand by and allow this to happen,” Kaine continued.

Gupta will be the first Australian company to challenge Uber with legal representation. Due to her little English, her husband Santosh will represent her in the hearing. 

Gupta worked at Uber from September 2017 to January 2019 and completed more than 2,200 deliveries with her husband over that period. 

She also claimed that she was required to accept jobs as not doing so would see her ratings fall lower than 85 per cent, which could see her access to the App revoked. 

But Uber claimed she was a Delivery-Partner, not an employee. 

Uber Eats workers claim to be nearing homelessness

An Uber Eats driver on the job. Image: Getty

Uber Eats drivers and the Transport Workers’ Union in October claimed they were nearing homelessness after pay decreased from an average $26.70 an hour to $13.90 due to changes to the delivery system. 

However, in a statement to Yahoo Finance at the time, Uber said there have been no changes and said the union’s survey was based on 67 drivers. 

“There have been no changes to the way delivery partner earnings are calculated, which continues to include a pick-up fee, drop-off fee, and a per-kilometre distance calculation.

“While earnings vary depending on when and where partners choose to deliver, we work with delivery partners to provide additional information about ways to maximise their potential earnings.”

Uber said its drivers “value the freedom of being their own boss” and many use the app as a way to support other income. 

California sets new precedent

It comes just months after Californian lawmakers approved a bill which would see some gig economy workers like Uber drivers reclassified as employees, and which could cost Uber US$500 million a year. 

Under that bill, drivers are only considered contractors if the work they’re performing is outside the usual company business

Given how Uber and Uber Eats’ workers perform the essential work, the huge tech firm would fail that test. 

Foodora worker judged an employee by Fair Work Commission

Last year, former Foodora driver Josh Klooger won his unfair dismissal case after Commissioner Ian Cambridge found him to be a Foodora employee, not a contractor. 

The decision, which saw Foodora’s firing to be “unnecessarily harsh” sent shock-waves through the gig economy sector after Klooger was judged an employee due to Foodora’s control over his work. 

Klooger claimed that he was fired after raising concerns about pay. 

The judgment found that Foodora’s control over when he started and finished work meant Klooger was an employee

Yahoo Finance has contacted Uber for comment. 

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