Transport Matters Party leader Rod Barton says fairness matters and he will support the Andrews Governments Wage Theft Bill when it comes before the legislative council today (16 June).
The legislation will introduce jail time and significant fines for individual businesses or corporates who knowingly underpay their workers, or withhold entitlements such as sick pay, holiday pay or overtime.
“I hope we will soon see this type of legislation expand to include fairness and dignity for workers in the gig economy, where companies use cute classifications, such as “contractor partner” to avoid their responsibilities,” he said.
“This bill comes down to some pretty basic principles of corporate behaviour and fair conduct. The idea of fairness and fair compensation is one of the key reasons I’m in this parliament and I’m determined that workers get what they deserve,” said Mr Barton.
Mr Barton said that the events of 2020 made it impossible to argue against the fundamental need for fairness in our world.
“This legislation sends a pretty clear message that people deserve to be paid for their work. They deserve to be paid for overtime. They deserve entitlements for sick pay, for holiday pay and for superannuation. They deserve this compensation as per their awards.”
Mr Barton has been a fierce advocate for fair compensation for the taxi and hire car industry after licence holders were left financially devastated by the 2017 commercial passenger industry reforms.
Last week the Californian regulator in the United States decided that people who drive for Uber and its US rival rideshare operator Lyft are in fact employees and are eligible for employee entitlements.
“These companies prey on vulnerable people and game the system for profit at the expense of the people who work for them. It’s refreshing to see regulators calling them out, at last,” he said.
Here in Victoria we’ve seen an explosion of driver numbers in the taxi and rideshare operations since deregulation in 2017 and now have over 100,000 drivers competing for work.
“Since the airport closed, since the Grand Prix was cancelled and Victoria’s sporting and corporate events program shut down, there has been no work for those 100,000 drivers.
Mr Barton said many drivers were already earning below the minimum wage prior to the pandemic.
“They had no super to draw down, no sick leave or no holidays owing and no backup from their “partners”.
“I hope we will see our labour laws expand to give protections to gig workers who are misclassified, ripped off and underpaid so they can pay rent and put food on the table,” said Mr Barton.