Airbnb has entered into a ground-breaking agreement with Australia’s Transport Workers’ Union to promote fair rates of pay and labour standards in the on-demand economy.
Airbnb’s head of public policy for ANZ, Brent Thomas, said that as a 21st century company it had a “responsibility to serve and strengthen the community and make sure technology was a force for good”.
Airbnb has 4.8 million users and decided it would partner with package and food delivery companies that did not exploit their workers.
“With wages flat and the cost of living high, we want to empower working families by helping them earn extra income and promote good, well-paying jobs,” Mr Thomas said.
With the TWU campaigning against the underpayment of food delivery riders and their lack of legal rights to fair conditions. Airbnb has agreed to actively promote a package or food delivery company that demonstrates it pays safe rates of pay and observes fair employment conditions.
The agreement will expand to other parts of the transport industry and is similar to arrangements Airbnb has in the United States and India with civil society organisations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Self-Employed Women’s Association.
TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said Airbnb’s decision to sign the new agreement was in stark contrast to “many gig economy platforms which are built on unravelling fair rates of pay and hard won conditions”.
“With Airbnb we are encouraging a race to the top,” Mr Sheldon said.
“Under this agreement a package or food delivery company that demonstrates it pays safe rates of pay and observes decent employment conditions will be actively promoted by Airbnb.
“This is a significant market opportunity for anyone prepared to adopt ethical labour practices. More Australian and international companies should follow Airbnb’s ethical and sustainable example.”
The agreement will also encourage TWU members to participate in and benefit from the sharing economy.
Mr Sheldon said TWU members would receive $150 from Airbnb if they become an active host. For every new host, Airbnb will make a matching $50 payment to the transport safety, training and education advocacy organisation, TEACHO Ltd.
Mr Sheldon said many food delivery riders were working up to 40 hours per week and some did more than 80 hours “for poverty wages”. He said riders were not receiving minimum wage payments and being left outside the system. He said parcel delivery drivers worked in the trucking industry which had a relatively high rate of injury and death.
The need to establish new rights for contract workers in the new on-demand economy will be a focus of debate at upcoming NSW and national Labor Party conferences.
Former federal Labor senator and NSW premier Bob Carr, also a member of the Airbnb Tourism Advisory Board, said decent wages and working conditions were the foundation of a prosperous, egalitarian society.
“This new agreement between the TWU and Airbnb is proof that a new, fairer course can be charted between the labour movement and the sharing economy,” he said.