Joellen Riley writes in The Conversation (23.1.17) about how so-called 'gig workers' need to be aware of their contract terms and band together in order to maintain their working rights and pay in an increasingly casualised workforce.
'Most workers want to be paid a fair rate for their work, they want to receive their pay promptly, and they don’t want to lose the opportunity to work in their chosen job for an unfair reason. This is particularly important when workers have invested their own capital in a vehicle or equipment for doing the job.
'Gig economy workers – who don’t have the same rights to award wages and unfair dismissal protection that regular employees enjoy – face some challenges in securing these needs.
'When a worker agrees to provide services on a platform (such as Uber or Airtasker) they will be asked to agree to a contract. The contract they sign (and this may effectively be by clicking ‘Agree’ on a screen) will determine their rights, subject only to the unfair contract terms provisions in the Australian Consumer Law.
'The law provides that unfair terms in standard form small business contracts are void, and cannot be enforced. It lists many ways in which a contract will be unfair. Examples of this are terms that allow one party to vary the price or payment terms, or terminate the contract prematurely.
'So it’s important these workers take the time to read the contract, and to look out for terms about pay rates, payment terms, and job security. They need to look out for clauses that allow the platform controller to increase their own commissions or reduce the price of services; and beware of clauses that allow them to cut off their access to the platform without notice or reasons.'
Criminal penalties for corporate wage theft are appealing, but won't fix the problem on their own
Tess Hardy writes in The Conversation (20.2.20) about further cases of businesses underpaying employees, suggesting that harsher criminal penalties will not automatically lead to greater compliance by employers with workplace laws.
'Australian supermarket giant Coles and discount chain Target this week joined an ignominious list of large corporations caught up in “wage theft” scandals.
'Coles confessed to underpaying salaried employees about A$20 million over the past six years. Target admitted to underpaying staff about A$9 million.
'Other large companies that have underpaid employees include Bunnings, which underpaid its staff about A$4 million in superannuation entitlements, and Woolworths, which underpaid employees up to A$300 million over ten years.
'These cases - along with a string of others involving small and medium enterprises - reinforce the need for reform.'