Unions NSW is calling on the Federal Government to set up an independent regulator to monitor the emerging gig economy, amid concerns worker safety is being put at risk. The peak trade union body says that popular gig economy website, Airtasker, is using the “cloak of innovation to reintroduce archaic labour practices, circumvent minimum wage rates, and removing employee safety nets.”
Additionally, Union NSW secretary Mark Morey told the ABC that dangerous work, such as removing asbestos, was being undertaken by unlicensed operators. This includes one worker being paid $50 for removing five sheets of asbestos, and allegedly only using a dust mask for protection.
“This is really unregulated and unsafe work that’s being done by people who potentially have bid for the job, who are not qualified to remove asbestos. And they’re creating safety issues, not just for themselves but for the people around them — the neighbours and everyone in the environment.”
The idea of the gig economy is for third-party websites to pair workers with individual, fragmented, tasks. And the industry continues to grow – it’s believed that the NSW gig economy provides up to 45,000 people annually with some form of work, and contributes $504 million to the state budget each year.
Airtasker, established in 2012, calls itself as ‘a trusted community marketplace for people and businesses to outsource tasks, find local services or hire flexible staff in minutes’. They say the same rules apply to them in terms of insurance and liability, yet Mr Morey disagrees.
“They are now setting up as businesses saying catch us if you can, we are going to operate unregulated until someone says stop.”
However, Airtasker’s chief executive Tim Fung told the ABC that the company was continuing to improve in this area.
“We’ve worked together with a number of third parties and we now have badges users can add to their profile for licensed electrician work, plumbing work, gas-fitting work, working with children checks, digital identification, police checks.”
“From our point of view it’s absolutely awesome if our users can identify if they have those licences, and so job posters have the same sort of transparency as they would have anywhere else.”
Download Unions NSW’s complete report on the gig economy safety risks.