Published: 04 May 2017
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas

Airtasker pioneers gig economy and protects workers

In what is being described as an unprecedented move, the digital app, Airtasker, announced on Monday that it will seek to provide minimum working wages to its workers.

Airtasker is an online and mobile app that allows workers to offer their services for everyday tasks, from handyman jobs to proof reading resumes. A member advertises the job required to be performed and then users bid to complete the task. 

The Airtasker platform reports $75 million in tasks have been transacted on the platform since launching in 2012. In Australia alone, Airtasker supports over 1 million members.

Airtasker is an example of the so-called “gig economy”, which refers to the economy of workers performing short-term, one-off or on-demand jobs – hence the reference to “gigs.” Social and technological developments of the last decade have given unprecedented rise to these businesses, which include Uber, UberEats and Deliveroo.

Aligning the new economy with regulatory law

Although the gig-economy presents novel and flexible income-earning opportunities for the community, its rapid rise has also brought regulatory challenges, including a lack of financial protection for workers and mechanisms to resolve disputes. For example, workers hired for a job are not insured in the event of an injury, which makes them vulnerable and at risk of exploitation.

It is therefore a welcome and timely development that Airtasker, in conjunction with Unions NSW, has agreed to:

  • promote basic working conditions;
  • promote minimum wages commensurate with Award rates;
  • offer insurance for workers; and
  • agreed to an independent dispute resolution process by the Fair Work Commission.

Protection of workers is a priority

Whilst this is a positive step towards protecting workers, there is still a long way to go to ensure that workers of the broad range of gig-economy platforms are protected.

It is hoped that these recent developments will pave the way for other businesses to follow suit and, eventually lead to significant changes to the Fair Work Act to cover the gig economy.

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