The rider sacked by food delivery service Foodora has been told by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) that he was unfairly dismissed.
The ruling, handed down on Friday, follows the Fair Work Ombudsman taking Foodora to the Federal Court in June, alleging that two Melbourne bike riders and a Sydney driver were classed as “independent contractors” when they did the work of full-time employees.
Another rider appealed to the Fair Work Commission, saying he was unfairly dismissed after speaking out over low pay and poor conditions for delivery riders.
“There has been broad community and academic debate about the status of ‘models’ using smartphone-driven technology as a means for deploying a workforce that delivers food to consumers from restaurants and fast food outlets,” Ombudsman Natalie James said at the time.
The TWU is now calling for the federal government to honour Friday’s ruling, and to “immediately regulate to ensure riders are given the rights they deserve”.
If found in breach of the Fair Work Act, Foodora faces penalties of up to AU$54,000 per contravention.
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Foodora wrapped up its Australian operations in August amid accusations that it was abandoning its obligations to workers owed back pay. The TWU said on Friday that the company had gone into administration.
In a statement, the union said it is also calling for governments to prosecute parent company Delivery Hero over Foodora’s refusal to pay workers’ compensation for riders injured while working.
“This is a big day for food delivery riders and a big day for workers rights across the on-demand economy. Workers, whether they are contractors or employees, have rights, and our system needs to start recognising this,” TWU coordinator on the on-demand economy Tony Sheldon said.
“This ruling shatters the foundation that the on-demand economy is built on: That it is OK to rip workers off, steal their wages, refuse them retirement contributions, and deny them wages when they are forced off the job because of an injury.”
In its judgment, the TWU said that corporations are avoiding responsibility and obligations that it would have as an employer, including where taxation, public insurances, workers compensation, superannuation, and workers’ health and safety are concerned.
“As a matter of public interest, these arrangements should be subject to stringent scrutiny,” the judgment said.
Earlier on Friday, creditors voted to approve a report that will see Delivery Hero pay AU$3 million of the more than AU$8 million that the TWU said it owes to riders.
“This fight does not end here. We will continue to pursue Foodora for the money they still owe riders in Australia,” Sheldon added.
“We will continue to demand an end to the exploitation of riders and other on-demand economy workers. The likes of Foodora, Uber, and Deliveroo have introduced eighteenth century working conditions to our country, this time via an app.
“They are now on notice that this must change.”
The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) in August called for reforms to be urgently implemented to address the “thousands of on-demand workers being ripped off on a daily basis”.
The call followed the tabling of a report from the Senate Committee on the Future of Work, which made a total of 24 recommendations to fix the state of the gig economy, including the establishment a central body within government to coordinate planning for the future of work.
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