The Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) has announced it is offering help in resolving disputes to gig economy small-business couriers working under contracts with Uber Eats, Deliveroo and other online ordering and delivery platforms.
New changes to the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 have redefined “freight broker” to make sure 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, the VSBC said.
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,” commissioner O’Connell said.
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,” she said.
“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.”