Uber’s global chief executive has heralded a landmark agreement the ridesharing giant has struck with one of its fiercest critics, Australia’s Transport Workers Union, in a major compromise that will frame the future of the gig economy.
In remarks made exclusively to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi hailed the agreement, which binds the US company to back more regulation requiring the industry to give drivers and couriers a form of minimum wage and rights to appeal dismissals.
“This deal is about raising up the voice of independent workers and focusing on what they say is most important to them: flexibility and control over when and where they work, earning a fair wage, and access to benefits and protections,” said Khosrowshahi, who has tried to rehabilitate Uber’s image after the pugilistic reign of his founding predecessor, Travis Kalanick.
“While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, we believe the best way to achieve [flexibility and benefits for riders] is to collaborate with governments, regulators and unions across the globe,” he said.
Gig economy contractors have no right to a minimum wage, unfair dismissal protection, workers’ compensation for injuries, or employer superannuation payments under Australian law. For years the Transport Workers Union has railed against that in the press, via high-profile court cases, and protests in capital cities.
It now has a powerful ally in Canberra, where federal workplace relations minister Tony Burke has committed to let the Fair Work Commission give gig economy workers similar rights to the rest of the workforce.
Uber’s Australian boss Dom Taylor denied the company was only backing change now that it has a regulatory gun to its head or that the agreement is an admission Uber had undercut Australia’s labour market since it arrived here about a decade ago.
He said Uber, which has more than 100,000 people on its books, had been in talks for months with the union and its workers, who valued the flexibility of being contractors very highly in surveys and discussions.
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