12 June 2019

Just days after promising a tough new approach, the Fair Work Ombudsman capitulated to Uber, allowing the tech giant to continue undercutting minimum wages and working conditions. Hiding behind a sparse media release, the FWO [$] “declined requests to reveal more detail behind the Ombudsman’s reasoning”, which does not suggest confidence it has reached the right conclusion. Workplace law experts are concerned about the secrecy of the process, with Professor Andrew Stewart calling it “very disappointing, given the significant uncertainty that exists over the legality of Uber’s arrangements. The central issue … could and arguably should have been tested in court, not behind closed doors.” It may be the case that the existing laws do not adequately protect Uber drivers, but regulators should be transparent about decisions that affect the rights of thousands of workers. Of course, this is the Uber model: “Uber always depended on pursuing artificial market power and destroying any constraints on the exercise of that power. It was always explicitly transferring wealth from labor to capital, and from democratically accountable public control to totally unaccountable private control.”