Uber has issued a warning that the cost of meal deliveries through its app could surge by 85%, with ride-share trips increasing by 60% due to proposed gig worker reforms by the Albanese government. The reforms are part of the Closing Loopholes Bill and aim to establish a pay floor for gig workers.
Uber, alongside the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), submitted responses to the Senate inquiry into these controversial reforms. The bill seeks to provide workplace rights for gig workers whose conditions resemble those of traditional employees, but Uber cautioned that the broad provisions could result in disputes about worker classification and economic implications for platform-dependent industries.
The company expressed support for a safety net but voiced concerns about potential consequences for the platform’s workers and the broader industry. According to Uber’s submission, the bill could lead to increased ride-share and delivery fees, raising consumer costs significantly.
Uber’s modeling, based on pay and conditions for casual workers under relevant awards, included factors like penalty rates, superannuation, and expense reimbursement. However, the specifics of minimum conditions are yet to be determined by the Fair Work Commission.
The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations produced a regulatory impact statement attached to the bill, estimating that granting the Fair Work Commission the power to set minimum pay and conditions for gig workers could lead to a total annual wage increase of $403.8 million over the next decade.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke acknowledged that increased worker rights could lead to higher prices for consumers. He stated that “Underpaying is cheaper. Slavery is probably cheaper too.”
Uber raised concerns that the bill might blur the lines between contractors engaged in employee-like work and actual employees, potentially leading to legal disputes about worker classifications.
The ACTU submitted 45 recommendations to strengthen the bill, including extending the provisions for employee-like workers to all relevant arrangements, irrespective of their platform.
The ACTU also proposed that the Fair Work Commission be granted explicit authority to determine worker classifications, a move that is expected to provoke opposition from employer groups.
Master Builders, a construction lobby group, warned that existing provisions could push independent contractors on construction sites into workplace agreements. The construction union accused the group of generating unwarranted concerns.
These debates continue to shape the future of gig work and the broader labor landscape in Australia.