Australian Council of Unions Chair Michele O’Neil said services such as Airtasker have replaced permanent work with “completely unreliable precarious work” that shifts responsibilities normally borne by an employer to employees.
“Airtasker and others are hiding behind the veil of so-called ‘independent contractors,’ who in reality are often neither,” she said. “Our laws need to change to protect working people in this underregulated part of the economy.”
Fung said the skills shortage had led to higher wages for workers who could control the size and price of tasks: “For example, if Taskers pick up and deliver tasks, they can base the cost of their task on the cost of gasoline for the day. ”
Bissell said that job-based gig workers did not receive benefits such as sick pay, vacation pay and pension.
“Despite an increase, wages for workers on these platforms are still very bad because wages are only part of what makes a good job,” he said.
Interviews with these employees for the Gig Cities project also revealed that many aspects of this type of work were unpaid, such as job bidding, travel to jobs and materials and transportation, Bissell said. “These kinds of job-based platforms are often seen as a race to the bottom in terms of encouraging people to accept low pay to secure the job.”
Fung agreed that there were issues with the gig economy that needed to be addressed. But he said 69 percent of Airtasker customers don’t pick the cheapest price: “Interestingly, we don’t see a race to the bottom of wage undercutting at all.”
Guilherme Coracini started delivery, mover and handyman jobs such as assembling and disassembling furniture in 2021 after losing “my other normal jobs”.
Coracini earns more than $9000 a month and said it was possible to “make good money if you have the skills to do it”.
“Demand isn’t always high, but the number of professionals offering has increased a lot compared to when I started over a year ago during COVID,” he said.
Bissell said many people who work for task-based platforms were often overqualified for the job but wanted to supplement their income.
Bissell said retirees took on task-oriented work for socializing and keeping busy, while other people took time off from their usual work “like teachers who were burned out.”
“What was especially interesting was that many people who did task-oriented work are embarrassed to admit to friends and family that they did it because it can be quite stigmatizing to work in a gig economy,” he said.
Larry Adams has a full-time job as a sign maker, but has taken on tasks such as clearing an attic, assembling furniture, hanging paintings “and once I dismantled an old man’s shed”.
“One lady just had to take out her building’s trash cans and return them two days later because she was on vacation — the easiest $25 I’ve ever made,” he said.
Adams said he took on tasks to generate extra income for unexpected bills, car repairs and vacations.
“The good thing is you can discuss the track and adjust the offer before the track crashes,” he said. “Some of them paid me surprisingly well.”
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