How Uber joined forces with feminists, Christians to oppose work reforms

It’s a strange mix. Uber, Deliveroo, a feminist network, the Business Council and the Christians have joined in opposing new workplace laws proposed by the State Government.

Jul 14, 2022, updated Jul 14, 2022
Thousands of Uber Eats delivery drivers will be given free hi-vis uniforms to improve safety.

Thousands of Uber Eats delivery drivers will be given free hi-vis uniforms to improve safety.

Pronouns are under fire, as is the gig economy, but it’s not as simple as that.

The Industrial Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Bill is an important and wide-ranging piece of legislation that reaches into the lives of Queenslanders in a significant way.

It seeks to do a lot of things including strengthen protections against workplace sexual harassment and parental leave, but it has a host of organisations rallying against it.

While provisions that remove gendered language have received the usual media coverage to make them appear silly, or woke as some refer to it, there are important ramifications.

“By removing sex-based terms, there is a risk that the needs of women both pre and post-partum will be ignored or not effectively attended to,’’ Fair Go for Queensland Women said.

“We respectfully suggest the retention of ‘maternity’ and adding ‘birth related’ in all relevant places. Similarly, we submit that ‘she’ should be retained and wording added to attend to those female individuals who claim alternative pronouns.’’

While unions have broadly supported it, including the powerful Shoppies and United Workers, the gig economy companies like Uber are dead against provisions that would give the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to set minimum standards for independent courier drivers.

They have essentially told Queensland that it would be the death knell of their business model and have suggested they leave it to the Federal Government’s planned reforms rather than allow the states and territories to create eight separate jurisdictions.

“It is our view the reforms contemplated in the Bill will lead to significant adverse impacts on the platform sector. In particular, the additional layer of regulation is likely to increase business costs, alter or limit the way platforms operate and limit innovation,’’ Uber said. 

“The Albanese Government announced under its Secure Australian Jobs Plan that it intends to regulate “employee-like” forms of work, including the setting of minimum pay and conditions for precarious workers who operate in the gig economy.

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“Any efforts to legislate prior to this important milestone will undermine the integrity and intent of the national Summit to provide a harmonised approach to industrial relations and improve the quality of work in Australia.’’

Deliveroo said the Bill had the potential to “severely compromise our role in supporting restaurants not only recover from the pandemic, but also manage the current economic environment of rising inflation and softening consumer demand’’. 

The Australian Christian Lobby, the feminist IWD Brisbane Meanjin, Fair Go for Queensland Women and the Maternity Consumer Network have opposed the provisions that would remove gendered language.

“Clause 10 deletes ‘maternity’ and inserts ‘birth related’ in order to establish that men, as well as women, give birth. ‘Maternity leave’ is replaced with ‘long birth leave.’ These are regressive changes, only women can give birth,’’ IWD said.

“Clauses 10 and 11 are of concern because they reinforce the current Government’s efforts to erase references to women and women’s rights in policy and law.’’

Unions have also applauded provisions that would end the “red unions’’, or unregistered organisations, that have emerged and are challenging the teachers, nurses and other unions for members. 

“To put it simply, the Bill clarifies that you’re either a union registered under the IR Act, seeking registration under the IR Act, or you’re not a union and you’re something else like a football club or charity set up for a different purpose under different legislation,’’ the Queensland Council of Unions said.


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