You’ve heard of the “gig economy” haven’t you? Well, here’s an example of why it gets so much bad press. Amita Gupta of Adelaide signed up to work for Uber Eats as a delivery driver. Apparently an industrious individual, Gupta clocked 96 hours of work in a single week—for which she was paid a total of $300. Then, presumably to add insult to injury, Uber fired her for delivering a food order 10 minutes too late.
When Gupta went to the Fair Work Commission alleging underpayment and undue termination, her case was thrown out on the grounds that she was not, in fact, an employee of the company and ergo “not a person protected from unfair dismissal.”
“Not a person” would have sufficed, I think.
News.com.au reports that Gupta’s case is now in the hands of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which is appealing the Commission’s decision. Last month the TWU filed a lawsuit against Deliveroo (another food delivery app) for wage theft.
Gupta’s husband, who also worked for Uber Eats (but not as an employee, of course), did some math and found that their hourly wage was about $5:
“We worked around 2700 hours and we got paid a total of $21,000. It works out to only $7.85 an hour, [with] vehicle expenses it works out to $5 an hour. It’s slavery in the modern world in Australia.”
He went on to detail some of the ways in which Uber Eats cheats its employees out of the money they have earned. These include manipulating contracts so that workers can be designated “independent contractors” without rights, as well as instructing drivers to take circuitous routes when delivering food, which the company would then refuse to pay for.
“They only pay the shortest route,” he explained.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said Gupta’s experience “highlights just how low Uber can go in terms of abusing workers.” He added:
“These drivers have chosen to take a stand, demand their rights and take on Uber. We believe the Fair Work Commission’s decision to refuse their case for unfair sacking was wrong and we believe there are strong grounds to appeal it.”