By ALLISON HORE
A food delivery driver who was kicked off the app he worked for at the height of the pandemic last year has won a landmark unfair dismissal case which could shake up the industry both in Australia and around the world.
Diego Franco, a Brazilian man who lives in Sydney with his wife and young daughter, worked for Deliveroo as a food delivery driver for three years. His job was the only source of income for his family at the time.
But in April last year, Mr. Franco received an email saying he was being removed from the app due to slow delivery times. Despite claims from Deliveroo to the contrary, he said he was not previously notified of any performance issues.
Speaking at a press conference after the Fair Work hearing, Mr. Franco said receiving the email was “very frustrating.”
“The whole world was struggling, and being kicked out of my job was really stressful,” he said.
“Especially because I’ve been providing great service for the company, working in the heat of the summer, in the cold of the winter, in the rain, in all kinds of bad situations.”
Unhappy with Deliveroo’s decision to kick him off the app, Mr. Franco, who was a member of the Transport Workers Union, took the UK-based delivery giant before to the Fair Work Commission.
Deliveroo argued that the dismissal of Mr. Franco was justified as there was no employee and employer relationship, and he was an independent contractor who was permitted to work for other apps.
“Harsh, unjust, unreasonable”
However, Fair Work Commissioner Ian Cambridge ruled that the use of a uniform and a system that organised shifts and measured performance painted a picture of a traditional employer/employee relationship. He said Mr. Franco’s dismissal was “harsh, unjust and unreasonable.”
“Mr Franco had every justification for being aggrieved by the callous and perfunctory termination of his services and any criticism of Deliveroo’s conduct was understandable,” he said.
Commissioner Cambridge ordered that Mr. Franco’s job with the company be reinstated. When asked if he would go back to work with Deliveroo, Mr. Franco said he would discuss it with his wife.
He said he feels relief following the ruling and hopes many others will benefit from his victory.
“Justice was made today, and hopefully, we will have better conditions for all riders both in and outside Australia,” he said.
“[This is] a big step towards the fairness of hard workers such as myself and thousands of other riders who provide a great service to those companies which make millions, if not billions of years”
Michele O’Neil, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, also celebrated the win.
“This is a great win for Diego and his union. Employers can’t simply tell workers they are contractors in order to strip away rights,” she said.
“Insecure work takes certainty and security away from millions of Australian workers and their families. Workers in the gig economy often work excessive hours but live in fear of being booted off an ap with no notice.”
However this isn’t the end of the line for Mr. Franco’s case. Deliveroo has already expressed their intent to appeal the decision, insisting that there is no employer and employee relationship between itself and its contractors.
“Riders frequently tell us that the freedom that comes with self-employment is the key reason why they choose Deliveroo, and we will appeal this decision to protect those freedoms,” a Deliveroo spokeswoman said.
The implication Mr. Franco’s unfair dismissal victory will have on the industry as a whole will likely rest on the outcome of that appeal.