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Thematic Issue: Abuse of Power / General

Constraining the Uber-Powerful Digital Platforms: A Proposal for a New Form of Regulation of On-Demand Road Transport Work


Michael Rawling and Joellen Riley Munton

Late in 2020 in California, two giant rideshare operators, Uber and Lyft, spearheaded a USD200 million campaign to overturn state legislation providing employment entitlements to their workers. This article exposes the way these enterprises employ legal drafting to disguise the reality of their relationships with workers; and we consider the rhetorical arguments they use to justify these strategies. We conclude that it is time for Australian regulators to adopt an alternative approach to ensuring basic protections for workers which focusses on the nature of the work being undertaken, rather than on the legal form of the contract between enterprise and worker. We focus on the Australian road transport industry, and particularly on rideshare and food delivery workers, because despite assertions that their labour is part of a shiny new ‘digital economy’, this kind of work has been important in societies since medieval times, or earlier.

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(2022) 45(1) UNSWLJ 7: