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Greens push for Future of Work Commission

The federal Greens will push for the establishment of a Future of Work Commission, with a focus on the gig economy, automation and digitalisation.

Greens Leader Adam Bandt unveiled the party’s election policy late last week in Melbourne. It’s the second time the Greens have taken such a policy to the election, with the party also urging the establishment of such a Commission in 2019.

Greens Leader Adam Bandt

The Future of Work Commission would investigate the positive and negative trends in the evolution of work, and report back to government, businesses and unions on how these opportunities can be maximised, and the negatives mitigated.

It will have a focus on the growing gig economy, including the likes of UberEats, and the impact of digitalisation and automation on Australian workers.

“Work is always changing and the pandemic has highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities,” Mr Bandt said in a statement.

“The gig economy is migrating through the whole economy. Remote working, digitalisation and automation are all changing the way we work, but people don’t have enough control to make it work for them.

“We need to be talking about the jobs of the future too. Clean energy, green industries, new services. We should be aiming for 2 per cent unemployment and a Future of Work Commission can help chart the path.”

Regulation of the gig economy became an election focus after it was raised during a leaders debate between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese last week.

Labor has promised to regulate the gig economy and set minimum standards in terms of pay and protections for gig economy workers.

“The gig economy is creating two classes of people. Your Uber driver is not a small business person. They’re someone trying to get by,” Mr Albanese said at the debate.

“There are some gig companies that have come to agreements in order to treat people as employees so they get those minimum conditions.”

The Coalition does not have a policy of regulating the gig economy, and Mr Morrison employed the argument of many of the tech giants that workers in the gig economy are “working for themselves”.

A Select Committee on Job Security was established at the end of 2020, and produced five reports before concluding its work at the end of March.

Its final report recommended the Fair Work Commission be the main vehicle for reforming the gig economy and ensuring workers are adequately paid and protected, and said the “unprecedented outsourcing” in the public sector must be addressed.

The Labor-led Committee investigated the “Uberisation” of the workforce, outsourcing in the public sector and short-term labour in the aged care sector.

It called on the government to significantly expand the remit of the Fair Work Commission to “empower” it to set minimum wages and minimum standards and conditions for contracted workers which are equal to employees, arbitrate contract termination disputes and make orders as to whether people should be classed as employees or contractors.

The report was roundly rejected by the participating Coalition senators, who labelled it as “nothing more than a stunt” and a “political farce”.