In Australia, union calls for gig economy to be regulated

An Australian labor union has begun a national push for a new body to regulate the ‘gig economy’ after an unlicensed asbestos removal was done through job posting website, Airtasker.

The The Labor Council of New South Wales, branded Unions NSW, said on Friday that it had already had some success in improving standards on Airtasker where minimum rates are now advertised for work done through the site. But unions have collected evidence of “serious safety and licensing concerns." 

Jobs have been posted on Airtasker requesting workers to break up and dispose of asbestos sheeting. In one job, a worker was paid $50 to remove five sheets of asbestos and was provided only a safety mask for protection, the organisation said.

Perth plumber Alec Sharland said he was banned from the site for pointing out licensing and safety breaches.

Airtasker CEO, Tim Fung, said Alec Sharland is currently active on the platform.

“Alec has received multiple warnings from Airtasker regarding the sharing of his contact details on his public profile, which is against Airtasker’s community guidelines,” Fung said.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey, said on Friday that the gig economy has outpaced traditional regulation and needs its own dedicated body to ensure safety and licensing standards are met.

“While there have been some improvements to wages and conditions on Airtasker, the reality is businesses establishing in the gig economy have a ‘catch us if you can’ mentality to regulation,” Morey said.

“Between now and the national ALP conference, we will campaign for an incoming Labor government to establish an independent body that would monitor the gig economy and work closely with trade unions to make sure minimum wages aren’t undercut and basic safety and licensing standards are met.

Read more:Sharing the stories of the CIO50 2017: #5 Paul Keen, Airtasker

“This is about saving the gig economy from itself. Unless we put a floor under this unregulated work, it will eventually suck all of us down,” he said.

Airtasker’s Fung said in a statement that the organisation values safety and is now verifying electrical, gas fitting and plumbing licenses as well as working with children and police checks, amongst a range of other qualifications and verifications.

“Last year, we worked with Unions NSW to release a number of safety guides, and we welcome continued discussions with the group on further measure we can take to improve education on safety so that people know their rights and responsibilities,” he said.

“We also work with a number of regulatory bodies, such as Fair Trading, state insurance regulatory bodies, law enforcement agencies, Unions NSW and local councils, amongst other government agencies, to ensure that we are complying with standards and pioneering best practices in this space.”

Airtasker will launch personal accident insurance to cover sharing economy workers on April 1.

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