Prime Mover Magazine

Gig economy couriers covered for dispute resolution: VSBC

Under new changes to the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005, gig economy couriers can take their business disputes to the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC).

The definition of ‘freight broker’ has been changed to ensure contractors employed through third party platforms are afforded the same protections as traditional owner drivers like goods and freight drivers.

The change means gig economy couriers will get paid within 30 days and when it comes to resolving disputes, they can now access a confidential low-cost mediation service that works.

The amendment responds to a government review that found many hirers and brokers weren’t providing cost schedules and contracts, leaving drivers exposed to safety and income risks.

Commissioner Judy O’Connell has backed the change, and welcomed the additional measure of the VSBC’s new arbitration function for all owner drivers in Victoria.

“This new function means that when mediation isn’t successful or where both parties agree it’s unlikely to succeed, the VSBC can arrange for a final decision – a binding determination – to be made to keep the dispute out of court,” said O’Connell.

Most of the owner driver disputes the VSBC has helped with relate to the driver not getting paid or being terminated.

“We have also had gig economy couriers who have come to us after having their contract terminated with no right of response, simply because they received a customer satisfaction rating below a certain level," said O'Connell.

“In a lot of instances, it’s just not worthwhile taking these matters to court because of the high costs involved – costs that are prohibitive for a lot of small business owners.”

“This important change means gig economy couriers will have access to a quick, effective and binding dispute resolution process that will help them get back to business sooner.”

Last year, a survey with a sample of more than 14,000 people revealed 7.1 per cent of respondents use a digital platform for work, 15.5 per cent considered income from gig work to be essential for meeting basic needs whereas 24.3 per cent said it is an important part of overall income but not essential.

The survey was jointly conducted by Queensland University of Technology, the University of Adelaide and University of Technology Sydney, and at the time, was Australia’s largest ever published survey regarding the on-demand economy.

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