Unions call for ‘gig economy’ safety push

Unions NSW concerned over asbestos removal jobs on Airtasker

New South Wales’ peak trade union body, Unions NSW, has called for a greater regulation of the so-called gig economy.

The organisation said it was alarmed after a number of asbestos-removal jobs were posted on online employment marketplace service Airtasker.

Unions NSW said that in one case a worker was paid $50 to remove asbestos sheets and allegedly only provided with a safety mask for protection.

“While there have been some improvements to wages and conditions on Airtasker, the reality is businesses establishing in the gig economy have a ‘catch us if you can’ mentality to regulation,” Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said in a statement.

Morey said that Unions NSW would push for a federal body to monitor the gig economy and work with unions “to make sure minimum wages aren’t undercut and basic safety and licensing standards are met”.

The organisation said that it would push for the national ALP conference to adopt the idea as official policy.

“This is about saving the gig economy from itself,” Morey said. “Unless we put a floor under this unregulated work, it will eventually suck all of us down."

“Airtasker highly values safety, and is now verifying electrical, gas-fitting and plumbing licenses, as well as working with children and police checks, amongst a range of other qualifications and verifications,” Airtasker’s CEO Tim Fung told Computerworld in an emailed statement.

“Last year we worked with Unions NSW to release a number of safety guides, and we welcome continued discussions with the group on further measures we can take to improve education on safety so that people know their rights and responsibilities.”

“We also work with a number of regulatory bodies, such as Fair Trading, state insurance regulatory bodies, law enforcement agencies, Unions NSW and local councils, amongst other government agencies, to ensure that we are complying with standards and pioneering best practices in this space,” the CEO added.

Airtasker from 1 April will launch what it said would be a world first for “sharing economy” platforms: Personal accident insurance covering Airtasker workers.

“Overall, we are absolutely open to discussions with all stakeholders to ensure that Airtasker keeps improving and has a positive impact on the future of work,” Fung said.

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