Victoria to begin work on recommendations arising from gig economy probe
The Victorian government will provide AU$5 million, as part of its 2021-22 Budget, to create new standards aimed at providing more protection for gig economy workers.
The funding will be used to help implement 20 recommendations that arose from the Victorian government’s inquiry into the On-Demand Workforce, which uncovered how platforms have been deliberate in framing their arrangements with workers to avoid complying with workplace laws and paying associated costs.
With the funding in tow, the Victorian government said it would “begin immediately” work on setting principles-based standards to provide fairer conditions for on-demand workers and ensure platforms operate transparently.
The AU$5 million will also be used to develop fair conduct and accountability standards together with industry and unions so there are shared principles on work status, fair conditions and pay, worker representation, and safety.
“All too often, gig economy workers have found themselves in a situation that looks and feels like an employment relationship. However, existing mechanisms to determine one’s work status — such as courts and tribunals — are often slow, costly and inaccessible,” the Victorian government said.
The inquiry, launched back in September 2018, specifically examined the treatment of workers and how they were remunerated. Chaired by former Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, the inquiry was commissioned by the Victorian government following widespread concern over the wages and conditions offered to workers in the gig economy.
Since the end of last year, the New South Wales government has also been investigating whether changes are needed within the gig economy. The investigation was prompted after a series of fatalities that involved food delivery riders occurred over a three-month period.
On the platform side, Menulog announced last month it would trial an employment model, and give its couriers access to insurance cover, fair pay, leave entitlements, and superannuation as part of efforts to “enhance the life standards of couriers”.
At the same time, other gig economy platforms, like Uber, have continued to deny having an employer-employee relationship with their drivers. Uber is currently facing a Federal Court appeal from a former delivery worker who alleges they were unfairly sacked and should be classified as an employee.
Victorian courts receive AU$210 million package to expand IT and digital upgrades
Victoria’s legal system will receive a combined AU$210 million funding boost to help drive down its COVID-19 backlog and expand IT and digital upgrades.
Of that package, which is part of next week’s state budget, AU$34.8 million will be used to provide extra court resources, such as new case management programs, expanded online services, the appointment of additional judicial officers, court support staff, and remote-hearing services.
The Online Magistrates Court, which was expanded during the pandemic, will receive $40.9 million in funding, including two new magistrates and more courtrooms.
AU$56.7 million has also been allocated towards accelerating the digitisation of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) so more of its hearings can be heard online.
“The coronavirus pandemic showed that court services can be delivered differently, and we want to see that continue — with more digital services delivering a faster and more flexible justice system for more Victorians,” Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said.
During the pandemic, VCAT started using a new platform that digitised its paper files and processes, automatically allocated correspondence to the relevant case in Dynamics 365, managed payment and decision notifications, and managed information and work processes across the division. Prior to the shift, it was relying on paper-based and manual processes.