Senator Bacik calls for protection of freelance workers' rights on Mayday

1 May 2020

competition amendment bill cake

To mark May Day, Senator Ivana Bacik has called today for greater recognition of the rights of vulnerable freelance workers.

Speaking today, Senator Bacik said:

“Today marks the international day for recognition of workers’ rights. Yet around the world as we face the challenges presented by COVID-19, the rights of all workers are under threat as never before. Mounting job losses and the prospect of a major economic downturn will mean increased undermining of workers’ rights and conditions.

“This is particularly evident for the most vulnerable workers; those who work freelance, in the so-called ‘gig economy’ and for online platforms. In 2017, the Labour Party brought about the passage here of the Competition (Amendment) Act 2017, which for the first time enabled freelance workers to be represented by trade unions in negotiating pay rates.

“Traditionally, collective bargaining rights were the preserve of employees only and were not extended to those in self-employment. But as new ways of working have evolved, often at the very edge of what our laws allow, it has been clear to the Labour Party for some time that changes to labour and competition law are required to protect the vulnerable self-employed from exploitation and poverty wages.

“Our law has meant that freelance journalists, session musicians and voiceover actors gained the right to collective bargaining. A diverse range of other workers are potentially covered by this new law - from delivery riders and freelance construction workers to IT technicians, airline pilots and tour guides, many of whom have often been effectively forced to declare themselves self-employed.

“The reforms in the 2017 Act gave them support in seeking to negotiate pay rates. It represented a blow against the rise of precarious jobs, where employment status can be unclear and rights to entitlements that workers have long expected,  like redundancy, sick pay and paid holidays are too often denied by employers.  The  Act stemmed from a longstanding Labour party commitment to ensure protection of the right to collectively bargain for freelance workers, including journalists, actors and others who perform their work on a self-employed or contract for services basis – its passage marked an important advance in the protection of vulnerable workers. We need to secure a government commitment to build on that legislation in future to ensure protection of the rights of this group of workers, many of whom are now on the frontline delivering essential services through the public health emergency.”