Victorian Inquiry Offers Novel Routes to Regulating Gig Work

Findings from a landmark inquiry commissioned by the Victorian government into the work conditions in the “on demand” (gig) economy have been released. The Inquiry confirms workplace laws have failed to keep pace with economic change.

Release of the report’s findings are timely with COVID-era unemployment surging and an expanding pool of vulnerable workers relying on “gig” work to meet living costs. How do platform “digital sweatshops” work?

Platform business models recruit workers without access to secure and better compensated jobs (especially migrant and young workers). Jobs performed are often menial and without adequate safety protections. Gig workers lack stable work schedules or incomes, and receive wages that often fall well-below social norms and legal minimums.

Creative Commons: Sam Saunders

The major recommendations by the Inquiry chaired by former Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James include:

· A more systematic application of the “work test” currently used to classify workers as employees or independent contractors by codifying the test in the Fair Work Act (rather than common law). This would create a nationally coherent framework for extending protections including minimum pay and conditions to gig workers genuinely working for another’s business.

· Alter competition laws and establish a new industry Award to enable gig workers to bargain collectively with platforms.

· Strengthen the gig work regulatory regime through industry codes of conduct between platforms, governments and unions for non-employee gig workers, overseen by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and allow an independent tribunal to oversee work status determinations.

We commend the Inquiry on the ambitious scale of the investigation, and the innovative pathway proposed for gig work regulation.

Three Centre for Future Work reports on gig work in Australia were cited in the final report. Research by Director Jim Stanford (with Andrew Stewart from University of Adelaide) featured in the report’s major recommendation that collective bargaining rights be extended to gig workers to lift pay and conditions of gig work.

You can read our full submission to the Inquiry — Turning Gigs Into Decent Jobs — by Jim Stanford and Alison Pennington HERE.

CFW, housed within the Australia Institute, conducts and publishes progressive economic research on work, employment, and labour markets. https://www.futurework

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