Uber has rejected claims drivers are being paid well below minimum wage but left the door open to supporting a push to guarantee base pay.
The Senate’s job security select committee on Monday afternoon heard evidence from leaving gig economy players including Uber, Ola and Deliveroo.
Senators were told Uber Eats drivers earned an average of $21.55 an hour during peak meal times.
Labor senator and committee chair Tony Sheldon asked Uber Eats general manager Matthew Denham to confirm that was below the casual minimum wage of $24.80.
Mr Denham said it was important to note delivery drivers and riders could work for other companies while being logged into Uber.
“In between trips, they might be running errands, they might be working on other platforms and earning extra income,” he said.
Mr Denham signalled the company would be open to talking with government about setting minimum pay rates but stressed the importance of independent and flexible work.
He warned a minimum wage could force Uber to implement set shifts, hours and locations, which 80 per cent of drivers were against.
University of Sydney law professor Joellen Riley Munton rejected Uber’s excuse for opposing traditional minimum pay.
“I suspect the same arguments were made a couple of centuries ago in the deep south in the cotton plantations but we still decided we wouldn’t tolerate slavery,” she told the hearing.
Transport Workers Union calculations found gig workers were receiving between $10 to $12 an hour when overhead costs were deducted
National secretary Michael Kaine said the union drew on 150 years of developing cost models for independent transport contractors.
“Whichever way you cut it, these workers are being exploited just on rates and that’s before we even look at the work methods which are imposed on them which are leading to really dangerous outcomes,” he said.
Mr Kaine said companies’ business models encouraged people to take shortcuts, work harder and do longer hours.
“It’s those pressures, particularly the pay pressure, that need to be dealt with,” he said.
“It’s those pressures that we’ve seen can be fatal.”
The TWU is pushing for a national tribunal to help gig workers in a bid to allow more flexibility than the binary idea or people either being employees or contractors.
“Just because our laws are out of the date it doesn’t mean workers should die,” Mr Kaine said.
Deliveroo bosses told the hearing its riders averaged $23.40 an hour across March.
Ann Tan, Ola’s executive director, said drivers were earning around $21 an hour but also noted the high rates of people being on multiple apps including Uber and other market players.
“We generally support any policy positions that provide a better outcome for our drivers and a level playing field for all industry players big or small,” she said.