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California law shows way to protect ‘gig economy’ workers


Landmark California law shows the way to protect New Zealand’s ‘gig economy’ workers

Ground-breaking legislation that passed in California last week could be just what platform workers like Uber drivers and other insecure workers in New Zealand need to escape the rat race of the so-called ‘gig economy’, FIRST Union said today.

Workers in the US state will benefit greatly from new legislation that closes a loophole allowing companies to misclassify their workers as contractors and deny them basic employment rights, and FIRST Union – the union for workers in labour hire and other non-traditional forms of work – believes a new global standard has been set.

“This landmark law could set a useful international precedent, giving gig and platform workers an opportunity to fight for secure and enduring work, and potentially reverse the global trend of casualisation,” said Anita Rosentreter, FIRST Union spokesperson.

“Aotearoa desperately needs similar law changes to protect the thousands of workers who’ve massively grown the market share for companies like Uber yet have no personal security of income themselves.”

Last year, the UK Court of Appeal upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s ruling that Uber drivers are ‘workers’, not independent contractors, and are therefore entitled to certain employment rights. Uber is challenging this decision in the Supreme Court, but may simply be staving off the inevitable, as global momentum builds for law changes addressing insecure work.

“We have many members across the labour-hire industry and in other non-traditional employment arrangements, and they’re all telling us that they need proper protection enshrined in law,” said Ms Rosentreter.

As an example, Uber has more than 6,500 drivers in New Zealand, and in comparable markets, around a quarter of drivers rely on the ride-share app for their primary source of income. They have no employment rights, are not subject to minimum wage laws and could lose their job without due process if Uber simply ‘deactivates’ their account.

“Our Real Work Real Jobs campaign aims to halt the erosion of work rights through contractor misuse in our country, and promote decent, secure work,” said Ms Rosentreter.

“We have our sights set on companies that exploit loopholes to disadvantage workers in the name of profit.”


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