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Minister Rejects ‘Magical Exemptions’ for Gig Worker Platforms

Digital platforms such as Airtasker are not necessarily exempt from Labor’s new gig worker protections, with the workplace relations minister confirming the test will be applied to the type of work, not the platform itself.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the industrial umpire would be looking for workers who satisfied its “employee-like” definition rather than making calls platform by platform.

“It’s not that Airtasker itself has some magic exemption,” he told ABC TV on Sunday in response to queries about the inclusion of disability care site Mable but not the use of Airtasker by the same care and disability workforce.

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Mr. Burke said most of the work that occurred on the Airtasker platform would not fall under the definition of employee-like, with the platform typically used as an online trading post to secure tradies for odd jobs.

“So you wouldn’t be able to suddenly do the exact same work for a lower pay and undercut by hopping under a different platform,” he said.

But if the Fair Work Commission made a ruling that applied to the care economy, for example, Mr. Burke said it would apply to those using the Airtasker platform to secure such work.

Under the changes, due to be introduced to parliament on Monday, gig workers will be privy to greater protections if they satisfy the employee-like classification.

To fall under this banner, workers need to have low bargaining power, low control over the work they are doing, and low pay compared to an employee doing the same job.

In the interests of maintaining the flexible nature of gig work, certain terms will be off limits to the industrial umpire, such as rostering rights

Mr. Burke confirmed the umpire might be able to ensure workers were paid superannuation, and potentially even some kind of “portable” leave system but noted this would be challenging when people were using multiple different apps.

Asked how the inclusion of super and other terms could push up prices for consumers, Mr. Burke said it would be “very modest.”

“It’s a smaller difference of whether you add anchovies to your pizza,” he said.

He said workers were typically earning about $3 or $4 less an hour than they would as employees, and closing that gap would come at a marginal cost to consumers when split across four or five deliveries an hour.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the government was intensifying cost of living pressures at a time when they were already stretched.

“The attacks on business are at exactly the wrong time and will mean the people’s cost of living goes up,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Mr. Dutton said the incoming legislation—intended to close a number of loopholes affecting casual workers and other groups—would likely make it harder for small businesses to survive.

“What we’ve seen so far will make it very, very difficult for us to support what will be an economy-destroying piece of legislation and just another nail in the coffin of small business,” he said.

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