Australian delivery riders say new platform safety measures aren’t enough, and that better pay is the only way to improve their working conditions

  • Following proposed NSW laws that will fine riders and require identification tags issued by the state government, delivery riders say efforts by the major platforms will have little impact if pay stays low.
  • Business Insider Australia spoke to riders working in Sydney’s inner city about changes to how the platforms have approached safety and pay since a spate of rider deaths placed a spotlight on the delivery giant’s treatment of its workers.
  • Gig economy platforms have come under increasing pressure globally to change the classification of their workforce from contractors to employees and improve working conditions.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Delivery riders working in Sydney’s inner city say there’s only so much increased safety measures from platforms like Uber Eats and Deliveroo can do when low pay incentivises dangerous practices.

This week, the NSW government announced a slate of new laws which will see food delivery riders working for companies like Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Menulog fined if they are caught riding unsafely.

The announcement followed the conclusion of a joint taskforce into food delivery rider safety, which was established after five delivery workers died in Sydney last year, sparking widespread outrage over the lack of safety protections for riders.

While the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has slammed the flagged legislation as “dangerous,” the NSW government has claimed the safety requirements will be the “toughest” in the country, with the police, SafeWork and Transport for NSW empowered to increase compliance activity.

Platforms have amped up safety checks

Overwhelmingly, riders across the three major delivery platforms – Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Menulog – said actions to improve safety either required checks on things they did anyway, like wearing a helmet, or did little to change how they carried out their work.

Maxime, 29, who delivers for Uber Eats, told Business Insider Australia he doesn’t see how the proposed laws around compliance and safety will improve his working conditions.

He said Uber Eats already requires its riders to complete safety courses that are provided to them on the app, but he’s unsure about compliance. “I don’t know if anyone checks them,” he said.

“They’re asking us to do a lot of safety tests on the app,” he said.

“I don’t expect anything from them,” he said. “I know they are just doing that because of the law and not because they worry about my safety. They just do it because they have to do it.”

Yuta, 32, started driving for Uber Eats two months ago and said he’d found it “much more dangerous” than he expected, due to the tight timeframes for delivery.

Musa, 30, is from Turkey and currently works for Deliveroo, but has worked for all the major platforms operating in Australia. He said it makes little difference if the platforms institute safety measures if it’s just to tick boxes.

“After the accidents they have taken more care, they are sending more videos… because I think the government forced them.”

Pay is worst on Uber Eats, drivers say

Maxime was one of several riders who said he’s seen a marked decline in pay while working for Uber Eats.

He said his pay for an average local trip has fallen in the past six months from between $6.50 and $8 to just $5.

“At the end of the week, the difference is enormous,” he said. “$600 at least.”

John, 30, who is from Columbia, told Business Insider Australia that pay on Uber Eats has “gotten low and it keeps getting lower”.

A Menulog rider who declined to be named said the platform paid the best of all the companies. He told Business Insider Australia he “prefers Menulog” because the company pays “fairly”.

John said that Menulog provided the best pay and conditions for riders, followed by Deliveroo and DoorDash, with “Uber definitely last.” Other riders Business Insider Australia spoke to agreed with that ordering.

“[Uber Eats] should leave Australia, because their payment is [below] Australian law,” John said.

“Every single payment is under $5. For $5, no one wants to do this job. Menulog pay $8 to $10 per trip, which is very good. It should be like this.”

Aman, 22, an accounting student from Nepal who has worked for all of the platforms, said he thinks the current low pay leads riders, including himself, to work as quickly as possible – especially during peak times when the most orders are coming in.

He said things would be better if he knew he would be paid a higher amount per trip.

“When it’s busy we have to try to work fast,” he said in order to hit enough trips to make money.

“If Uber is paying $5, we have to ride more and we have to go a far distance and ride more. But if we get better pay we can just ride around [locally] and it would be safe for ourselves.”

“I want to be paid more per trip,” he said. “We are paid per trip and not for our time,” he said, a set up that depending on waiting times at restaurants can lead to “$5 pay with a 20-minute waiting time” before the delivery even begins.

Platforms tout participation in government task force as a sign of progress

Since the delivery rider deaths, the state government and the local arms of the delivery platforms have actively worked to show they are addressing the issue, most notably with the participation of the major delivery platforms in the NSW government’s taskforce.

Business Insider Australia received responses via email from Uber, Deliveroo and Menulog around actions to improve safety following rider deaths, as well as pay for their riders.

A spokesperson for Uber Eats told Business Insider Australia it has accelerated its “product roadmap” to support safe delivery.

It stated it “is an active participant in the NSW Government’s important work on safety for the food delivery industry.”

The TWU pulled out of the government’s taskforce in April because it said it was concerned companies like Uber were placing pressure on the government and having an outsized influence.

The spokesperson said in March it launched a range of new safety initiatives aimed at helping delivery people stay safe on the road, “including the roll out of personal protective equipment, new in-app tech features and education modules which have been built specifically for the Australian market.”

Deliveroo said in an emailed statement it responded last year with a campaign aimed at regularly communicating about safety with its riders.

It pointed to a Winter Rider Safety Campaign that was launched on June 2, as well as its rider advisory panel that seeks to give riders independent representation to provide feedback on implemented changes.

However the company skirted the idea that responsibility for workers was solely up to the companies, saying that questions around worker treatment were “a complex issue,” according to its statement.

“For us to collectively ‘move the dial’, it requires all stakeholders – government experts, industry and riders – to take responsibility for the actions within their control,” the company said.

Menulog, with its recent announcement it intended to trial a transition to classifying its workers as employees, appears to have a public-facing stance on worker treatment reflected on the ground.

In an emailed statement a spokesperson for the company told Business Insider Australia said it had committed to and rolled out 12 additional safety initiatives since November 2020, as part of the NSW Industry Action Plan, including a new in-app courier help centre and free delivery gear and safety equipment for riders.

The company said its move toward full employment for riders is proof of its commitment to fair treatment and pay.

“We announced our ambition to move to an employment model for food couriers in Australia in April,” the spokesperson said.

“We believe the shift to employment will also enhance safety for couriers, customers, restaurants and the broader community with more controls in place to minimise risk.”