Why $2 ‘won’t save delivery drivers’ lives’

Gig workers, such as Menulog delivery people, are the target of the new bill. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker

The head of a major business organisation has rubbished the government’s plan to overhaul entitlements for gig workers, including Uber and Menulog drivers, saying the $2-$3 pay increase will not change worker’s behaviours.

Companies that rely on on-demand workers are in the crosshairs of a major industrial relations shake-up trumpeted by the federal government as a solution to improve employee entitlements and safety.

The proposed reforms, announced by Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke, have faced pushback from industry leaders despite receiving support from the unions.

ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar. Picture: ABC
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Andrew McKeller said he would not support the IR reforms. Picture: ABC

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKeller told ABC’s Q+A program on Monday he would not support reforms, saying they would not help address workplace deaths among gig workers.

“Any death, any serious injury on the road, whether it’s work-related or otherwise, it is unnecessary, and we’ve got to do everything we can to try to prevent that,” Mr McKellar told host Patricia Karvelas.

Asked why then he would not support the reform, Mr McKellar said: “Because it has nothing to do with safety.”

“There is nothing in the law that the minister or government has brought forward that will in any way address safety,” he said.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney. Picture: ABC
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney said the changes “swung the pendulum” back to workers. Picture: ABC

“If you think about it, the examples he is giving are people doing courier rides through traffic and so on.

“Honestly you think the argument that they will get an extra $2-3 an hour is going to fundamentally change their behaviours? It won’t.”

Discussion about the reforms centred on safety on Monday in the wake of the death of a food delivery worker, aged in his 20s, in Campbelltown in August, the second that month and the 13th since gig work services first took off in 2017.

Mr McKellar said food delivery and rideshare employers – the “biggest problem areas” cited by the government – were already willing to agree to a set of standards surrounding employee pay, as well as insurance and record-keeping.

Q+A host Patricia Karvelas on Monday night's program. ABC
Q+A host Patricia Karvelas pressed Mr McKeller on his decision not to support the reforms. Picture: ABC

Ms Kearney rebuffed those claims and instead argued the reforms “swung the pendulum” back so that workers stood to get more out of their arrangements with gig employers.

“We are not making it harder to employ labour hire, we’re just making sure that labour hire is not used in the wrong way and that is to undercut working terms and conditions in a workplace and it is in some places being used for that,” she said.

“We want to look after the gig economy which has been a manifestation of the last decade where people aren’t earning enough to make a living, and they undertake risky behaviours: get run over on their bikes delivering Deliveroo food, working longer hours.”

Fellow panellists, Victorian Young Australian of the Year Darcy McGauley-Bartlett and human rights advocate Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, echoed that sentiment, both telling the audience that even one death in the industry was “too much”.