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DoorDash, TWU sign industry-first agreement on gig economy principles

Meal delivery platform DoorDash and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) have signed a first-of-its-kind agreement, laying out key principles for workers and companies operating in the gig economy while backing the push for enforceable industry standards.

Major gig economy providers like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Deliveroo operate under an independent contractor model, where riders and drivers decide when, where, and how long they work.

That flexibility currently comes at the expense of many entitlements handed to fully-fledged employees.

Platforms including Uber Eats and Deliveroo have told government inquiries that independent contractors acknowledge that trade-off, and prefer the flexibility of gig work to the trappings of regimented employment.

But providing gig workers with entitlements like a minimum wage, sick pay, and superannuation would deter riders and drivers from overworking or undertaking unsafe practices to complete deliveries, advocates say.

Today’s agreement is “an important step towards giving gig economy workers the rights and protections they deserve”, said Tim Kaine, TWU national secretary.

“Work through apps like DoorDash appeals to many people because it can fit around their lives and other commitments, but we need to ensure independent workers can rely on clear standards and protections and access more benefits, without sacrificing the autonomy and flexibility they value,” said Rebecca Burrows, general manager of DoorDash Australia.

DoorDash, TWU agree on six key tenets with more to come

Without switching to an employment model, the new agreement sees DoorDash agree with the TWU on six new commitments.

“Workers should not be prohibited from accessing appropriate work rights and entitlements,” the agreement said.

Workers must also have transparency about their working conditions, access to dispute resolution processes, and access to driver education and training, it notes.

Those in the gig economy should also be granted access to a “collective voice”, the agreement says.

Finally, the document sees DoorDash and the TWU agree to pursue a “three-stage approach towards achieving regulation of the on-demand transport industry”.

The second step involves the creation of the enforceable standards in the food delivery sector, with the final hurdle the establishment of a government-established independent body to enforce them.

Gig work an election flashpoint

That final tenet is backdropped by Labor’s focus on gig economy workers ahead of the federal election.

A Labor government would empower the Fair Work Commission to oversee “employee-like” forms of work, the party says, and determine if new minimum entitlements and protections should come into play.

The nature of gig work became a talking point at Sunday’s leadership debate, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese sparred over minimum wages for gig economy workers and whether they are technically small business owners themselves.

While the outcome of the election is far from certain, Kaine welcomed the union’s latest agreement with DoorDash.

“After months of negotiations and activism, DoorDash has agreed to link arms with the TWU and pursue a regulatory framework to set industry-wide rights and entitlements,” Kaine told a press conference on Tuesday.

“It’s the unregulated seeking the security of enforced standards for all. That’s beautiful. Asking for a system that levels the playing field and supports fair and ethical competition.”

Industrial action has been pivotal to the brokering of agreements with gig economy operators, Kaine said.

“Having said that, we must commend DoorDash for taking this step. And while it’s just the first, we’re confident now that this won’t be the last gig [provider] to see the logic of those industry-wide standards.”

The story originally appeared on Smart Company.

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