Contributed from Victoria
Uber the $69 billion company, hit the world with a different business model that relies heavily on the concept of the “gig economy.” This means, taking on workers as contractors, who are not paid by the hour, but only receive a fee for carrying out specific jobs. The contractors must remain on standby and get paid nothing for it. Work tasks are assigned via an app downloaded into a mobile phone.This type of work could easily spread.
This is a concern in Australia as well, where Uber is trying to make an inroad. A few other companies like the pizza maker Dominos, are also turning to the gig economy.
Growing concern about this form of cheap labour has resulted in action being taken in the United Kingdom, where there are 30,000 Uber drivers.
The transport union GMB is representing mini cab drivers and working to stop the company’s license from been renewed this year, unless Uber guarantees basic employment rights to its workers. The current licence expires on 31 May.
The union has already won a court case, which has determined that Uber drivers are not self-employed contractors, but employees. Uber is appealing the decision and has to date avoided changing its practices and continues to insist that its drivers are self-employed.
If the license is renewed, a judicial review will be sought and the campaign against Uber and the Gig economy will continue.
SumOfUs, which campaigns against corporate abuse and for fair labour standards is working with GMB. It has stated that
“Transport for London has a right and responsibility to put the brakes on Uber’s recklessness and could send an important signal to other ‘gig economy’ corporations and city authorities around the world”.
Legal action against the company is also being taken in New York, after Uber was used against a strike at JFK Airport called by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, in response to Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban”. Customers were charged an extra premium around the airport. The case is based on the argument that Uber charges customers more than it should.
The company’s CEO sits on Trump’s business advisory council.
Given it’s track record, Uber should not be given the opportunity to expand in Australia.