Social engineering: PB Employment Law

Late last year I wrote about a decision of the Employment Court making 4 Uber drivers independent contractors, rather than employees.

Paul Brown, Specialist Employment Lawyer

The main court reasoning was that Uber exercised a high degree of control over the drivers, and the only thing that the drivers really provided was their labour and a car.

Over Christmas, I took an Uber from Auckland domestic airport to West Auckland. a $70 fare well below taxi fares. This gave me the chance for a long conversation with my driver.

He was a professional chef, married with a young child, originally from India, and progressing through his residency application.

The main reason he drove Uber was the flexibility to choose his own work hours, and the income. In the busy weeks leading up to Christmas he was earning $2-$3000 a week, which will settle back down to around $1500-$2000 per week, still much more than he earned as a chef.

Casual employees have the freedom to work as and when they want, so what does this decision really mean?

I see it as social engineering. While the courts have always ruled over agreements and contracts, this decision is another example of the continual loss of liberty in New Zealand.

Unless you are doing something illegal, you should be free to enter into the type of employment relationship that you wish, provided that it’s freely made and an informed decision.

Many industries, such as the building industry, exploit workers by telling them they are independent contractors, meaning they can be fired at will – for any reason.

The court has an important role in dealing with these issues, instead it has gifted the E Tu union a membership drive.

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