A new contract sent to Uber Eats delivery drivers, which requires them to have an ABN and take out their own insurance, appears aimed at stopping claims the riders should be treated as employees.
The new contract, sent out on Wednesday and seen by Guardian Australia, stated drivers who signed the agreement were self-employed contractors and there was no “employment relationship between you and Uber, Portier Pacific or their affiliates”.
Drivers will be allowed to pass on deliveries to other drivers, and can take work in other delivery apps.
The contract also gives Uber the right to alter the terms of the agreement, and terminate it if “the rider engages in conduct that has the potential to cause adverse publicity, media attention or regulatory scrutiny or which may be detrimental to Uber’s reputation or brand” – a provision labelled a “gag order” by the union representing drivers.
“The contract’s gag order that prevents workers from speaking out in any way that may lead to “regulatory scrutiny” is appalling and shows that Uber is well aware that it imposes working conditions far below the standards expected in Australia,” the Transport Workers’ Union national secretary, Michael Kaine, said.
Kaine called on the government to examine whether the provision was in breach of Australian workplace law.
A spokeswoman for Uber told Guardian Australia that the clause had been in previous contracts and had not been raised as an issue before, but the company would now be removing the clause based on the feedback.
“The draft partner agreement was sent to all delivery persons this week, along with an outline of the changes to the Uber Eats business model which will commence on March 1,” she said.
“One of the reasons why we provided a copy of the agreement so far in advance was to give delivery persons the opportunity to review it, ask questions and provide feedback.”
The new agreement follows Uber’s decision to settle a high-profile case with a former delivery driver in December last year.
It would have been the first ruling in the federal court on the employment status of Uber’s workers. Earlier rulings in the Fair Work Commission had sided with the tech giant, and ruled their workers were not employees.
Kaine said the contract “reeks of desperation to shore up a business model which relies on exploitation” and showed Uber’s intent to transfer all risk to underpaid riders.
In a blog post earlier this month Uber said the changes were part of an overhaul of the business model in Australia to stop the app pairing up riders with restaurants for delivery and payments. Instead Uber will now directly contract the riders, meaning restaurants will just pay Uber Eats rather than individual riders.
Five delivery drivers have been killed in Australia since the end of September. The TWU has filed a workers’ compensation claim on behalf of the family of Dede Fredy, a 36-year-old Uber Eats worker from Indonesia, who died on 27 September after he was hit by a car in Sydney while delivering food, in the first case of its kind in Australia.
The New South Wales government set up a taskforce to examine the industry following the deaths.