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‘Web of deceit’: Union fights Uber Eats for banning driver 'unfairly'

(Source: AAP, Supplied)

The Transport Workers’ Union is today appealing the Fair Work Commission’s decision to dismiss a claim by a sacked Uber Eats driver on the basis that the worker was an independent contractor, not an employee.

According to the TWU, Adelaide-based former Uber Eats driver Amita Gupta logged onto work for Uber Eats for 96 hours one week, but only received $300 in pay. After being 10 minutes late for a delivery, her access to the app was blocked, which she argued constituted a dismissal.

Gupta and her husband, both who suffer from several disabilities, went to the Fair Work Commission in an attempt to lodge an unfair dismissal remedy application, but this was shot down by the Commission on 23 August.

“I do not consider that Ms Gupta was an employee for the purposes of s.382 of the FW Act at the time of ending of the relationship, or more generally, and was not a person protected from unfair dismissal,” Commissioner Hampton wrote in his decision statement.

“As a result, the unfair dismissal application does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission.”

But TWU national secretary Michael Kaine today said the FWC’s decision to refuse the case was wrong.

“We believe there are strong grounds to appeal it,” he said.

“Uber Eats is deliberately misclassifying its workers, calling them independent contractors, so they can deny them rights, deny them superannuation, deny them the rights to leave,” Kaine said in a press conference live-streamed on Twitter.

Uber Eats was operating through a “web of deceit” and through “exploitation”, he added.

“[Uber] expect workers to be logged on for hours with no work and if they are a few minutes late they get sacked, with no warning or right to appeal. These drivers have chosen to take a stand, demand their rights and take on Uber,” he added.

“This case highlights just how low Uber can go in terms of abusing workers.”

TWU is also appealing to the federal government to intervene on the case, as well as for the government to regulate the gig economy.

Gig economy workers should be given rights to guaranteed minimum rates, sick leave, adequate workers’ compensation when injured on the job, the right to collectively bargain and the right to challenge an unfair sacking, Kaine argued.

“It cannot be left any longer to individuals to take on these cashed-up Silicon Valley behemoths, dragging them through the courts,” he said.

“California last week stepped up and gave these rights to workers, why can’t the Australian government do the same?”

Last Tuesday, Californian senators approved a bill that could reclassify on-demand contractors as employees in a move that would have major implications for Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy companies. The law will take effect from January – it is still awaiting approval from Californian governor Gavin Newsom – but he has already expressed support for it, Fortune.com reported.

Kaine said a successful appeal could prompt other Australian courts to recognise the rights of gig economy workers.

“The case will also pile pressure on the federal government to intervene on the side of workers and protect their rights,” he said as reported in The Australian.

On 17 July, Uber Eats pledged to amend its “unfair” contract terms that saw restaurants, not Uber Eats, responsible for damage to meals or errors that happened during delivery.

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