- The Transport Workers Union is urging the federal government to investigate the food delivery industry after the fifth death of a rider on the roads in two months.
- Food delivery platforms categorise their workers as independent contractors rather than employees. This distinction means those riders don’t have entitlements like minimum wage, sick leave and access to worker safety compensation schemes.
- A NSW government report found that a lack of support and advice for workers from the food delivery platforms was contributing to a dangerous working environment for riders.
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The death of a fifth food delivery rider in the past two months has prompted calls from their union for the federal government to intervene.
On Monday evening, an Uber Eats cyclist was killed after being hit by a truck in the Sydney suburb of Redfern.
This comes just days after Bangladeshi student Bijoy Paul died in hospital after he was also hit by a car while working for Uber Eats.
Since September 27, Dede Fredy, a Sydney-based Uber Eats rider, Xiaojun Chen, a rider for the Hungry Panda app in Sydney, and Chow Khai Shien, a DoorDash worker in Melbourne, have all died while working.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) National Secretary Michael Kaine said the way that that delivery companies are able to categorise their workers as independent contractors was contributing to these deaths.
“Companies like Uber do not care whether their workers live or die, so long as the food gets delivered on time. That is clear from the lack of training and protective gear for riders. It’s also clear in the way companies like Uber harass their riders and threaten them with sacking if they are even a few minutes late,” he said.
Kaine urged the federal government to act now, saying that the law hasn’t kept up with changes in working conditions.
“As a matter of urgency we want the Federal Government to investigate the safety measures Uber and other companies have in place for their riders and whether they meet workplace standards. But the Federal Government now must begin looking at regulating these companies and putting in place an independent tribunal which workers can turn to for the rights and protections they need,” he said.
As independent contractors, food delivery riders have fewer entitlements than employees. They don’t have sick leave, paid leave, minimum wage and other protections.
And unlike employees, their dependents are unable to access the NSW’s workers’ compensation scheme for those who die at work.
The scheme offers a a lump sum payment of $834,200, a weekly payment of $149.30 for each dependent child up to the age of 16, and reasonable funeral expenses.
A report by NSW’s Centre for Work Health and Safety found that among the problems afflicting the industry was a lack of support and advice provided to workers by the food delivery platforms.
Noting that many riders are young men on student visas with “relatively low level of workplace health and safety knowledge”, the report found that that workers were at risk of traffic accidents as well as other types of abuse and crime.
A TWU survey of riders found that one in three riders had been injured while working. 80% of those said they received no support from the platform.
An Uber Eats spokesperson acknowledged that the industry needed to improve its safety measures to help riders.
“It is clear the industry needs to do more to improve road safety, and we are committed to playing a leading role in achieving this,” they said.
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