'Will pay $20 for someone to clean my bong'
AIRTASKER is the app that gets things done.
Whether you need an Ikea shelf put together, a parcel collected or your drug paraphernalia cleaned, it's got your back - no questions asked.
The sometimes bizarre nature of "jobs" posted on the platform that now has more than 1 million users have drawn laughs and raised eyebrows, from writing a love letter to picking up late-night KFC or posing as a fake paparazzi.
But there's a more serious side that's been highlighted in a report tabled in Parliament this week, raising concerns of worker exploitation and illegal activity.
The Senate Committee on Corporate Avoidance of the Fair Work Act has done a deep dive on the so-called gig economy, and found what it sees as a big problem with apps Airtasker and Deliveroo.
"Gig companies have not invented a new way of working - they have exploited 'a cloak of innovation and progress to reintroduce archaic and outdated labour practices'," the committee's report said, calling for new laws to force the platforms to treat workers as employees.
"The gig economy is normalising labour conditions it took generations of political struggle to stamp out in this country: precarious circumstances in which a person may not know where their next few dollars are coming from: insecure, unprotected, sporadic work."
BONGS, BOOZE AND 'BAD' BABYSITTERS
The Senate Committee also took aim at potentially illegal and dangerous transactions being facilitated by the app, detailing an Airtasker post by a father who wanted a cheap babysitter for his three young girls and noting that the company does not vet candidates for experience or require working with children checks.Then there was the man who wanted someone to "clean my bong", which he allegedly "smoked tobacco out of" but did not know how to clean.
The bong smoker offered $20 for the task, but "of course taskers are free to bid lower", the report said.
A male poster was looking for a "female drinking buddy" in Bondi Beach, offering to shout the winning bidder's drinks, while another man offered $35 for someone to "bring me alcohol". A "bored" woman replied that she would be happy to bring him a bottle of Smiroff.
Another man wrote that he needed to renew his car's registration and wanted someone to get him a pink slip "maybe without seeing car" - a prospect that could breach laws requiring cars over five years old to have a safety inspection.
"It would be of interest to know whether the above poster found a qualified mechanic to issue a safety inspection report," the committee said, noting that Airtasker "in theory" banned illegal activities being posted on its platform.
APPS 'SHORT-CHANGING' WORKERS
Airtasker facilitates millions of dollars worth of transactions every month and takes a 15 per cent cut of the payment to each worker.
The company has described its business model as "transparent" as it allows people to see what is being offered.
But the Senate Committee concluded that it, and other companies like it, were behaving in a similar way to those that used "sham contracting" to short-change workers.
Because these workers are treated as independent contractors or "entrepreneurs" rather than employees, it said, they were put in a vulnerable position on an platform where they must bid for work - and the customer is free to select the cheapest offer.
"The worse or more desperate a person's financial circumstances, the less they might agree to work for," the report said, noting that such workers had no security of income, superannuation or employee entitlements such as minimum wages or paid leave.
The Young Workers' Centre argued in its submission to the inquiry that the low pay of Deliveroo bicycle courier working on quiet shifts amounted to "stolen wages".
One rider revealed that his parents had bought him insurance for Christmas because they feared for his safety on the roads.
"It is a dangerous job," he said. "A lot of people get car doored or slip on tram tracks, things like that."
Deliveroo last year brought in WorkCover for its riders, at the company's cost, but the inquiry found that its contracts appeared to "absolve the company of any responsibility toward its riders" under workplace safety laws. Riders must also purchase their own public liability insurance.
GIG PLATFORMS DEFEND 'FLEXIBLE WORK'
Airtasker said in its submission that its mission was "to empower all people to realise the full value of their skills".
"We believe that the typical definition of 'skills' has not really taken into account all of the skills that individual people have, and we want to create a platform that allows them to share those skills and to realise the value of those skills," the company said.
Airtasker has struck an agreement with Unions NSW in May to "recommend" above-award pay rates for tasks listed on its platform.
Hailed as a "landmark" deal, it nonetheless leaves users free to set whatever pay rates they wish.
Airtasker also recently offered workers on its platform the option of buying income protection insurance.
Co-founder and chief executive Tim Fung said the company was "working together with Unions NSW to proactively educate Airtasker community members in relation to work safety and minimum wages".
A Deliveroo spokeswoman said in a statement: "Deliveroo offers well paid, flexible work that riders tell us they want.
"The flexibility that comes with self employment gives riders the freedom to choose when, where and how they work and the ability to ride with multiple companies at the same time. "Alongside our determination to protect the flexibility riders want, we are determined to offer riders the security they deserve.
"That is why we already provide WorkCover and why we will work with the government to end the trade-off between flexibility and security."