“The claim that a visa worker whose only asset is a second-hand bike is somehow an empowered independent contractor is ridiculous and dangerous,” Mr Burke will say at an industry dinner in Sydney on Thursday.
“Saying yes to the technology doesn’t have to mean saying yes to exploitation.”
In speech notes seen by the Herald, Mr Burke said the FWC could have its remit extended to deal with circumstances that were “employee-like”.
“This avoids the risk of new legislated definitions which could simply see the platforms restructuring to avoid being caught by the legislation,” he said.
“Giving a role for the commission also ensures genuine independent contractors are not caught by the sort of regulation that is required for those receiving less than minimum rates.”
One widow who was left without compensation when her delivery rider husband was killed in Sydney has lodged a workers compensation claim through the NSW state insurer icare.
Lihong Wei’s husband Xiaojun Chen was killed after being hit by a bus while working for food delivery company Hungry Panda in September.
The claim would garner more than $800,000 for Mrs Wei and her family and, if unsuccessful, sets the groundwork for a test case under the state’s workers compensation scheme.
Slater and Gordon practice group leader Jasmina Mackovic said, if the claim was denied, her firm would take the case to the state’s workers compensation commission where they will argue Mr Chen was a ‘worker’ or ‘deemed worker’.
“At the end of the day we just want these drivers to be recognised as workers under NSW legislation so that proper workers compensation entitlements are afforded to them if they’re injured or killed at work,” Ms Mackovic said.
Hungry Panda provided Mrs Wei with financial support for her husband’s funeral, as well as travel and administrative expenses, beyond its legal obligations in Australia.
Law academics, unions and NSW MPs have also called for the extension of Chapter 6 of the NSW Industrial Relations Act to cover food delivery riders.
The legislation regulates workplace conditions for truck drivers who are contractors and it could be amended to include food delivery riders.
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has indicated he intends to have rider safety added as a priority agenda item for the next meeting of national work health and safety (WHS) ministers.
Mr Burke said the current state of Australia’s gig economy was “worker exploitation, plain and simple”.
“[It is] five people working in third-world standards in a first-world country,” Mr Burke said.
A NSW government report released earlier this month found gig economy workers receive only limited safety advice from food delivery platforms, suffer abuse and often fear reporting incidents.
Tom Rabe is Transport Reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.
Nick Bonyhady is industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based between Sydney and Parliament House in Canberra.