Uber Eats report acknowledges ‘not all platform work is a high-wage option’ as gig economy prepares for new guidelines from NSW taskforce

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  • Uber Eats created nearly 60,000 ‘work opportunities’ through 2020, claims a new report.
  • The “Making delivery work for everyone” paper, released Monday, claims delivery work supported vulnerable workers through the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The positive spin on gig economy work comes just days before a NSW Government taskforce reveals new safety guidelines for the booming sector.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Uber Eats has celebrated creating 60,000 “work opportunities” in Australia through 2020, as the food delivery platform braces for landmark NSW Government guidelines to boost rider safety in the booming sector.

Without calling its delivery riders employees, the “Making delivery work for everyone” paper, released late Monday, claims Uber Eats provided 59,000 opportunities to work last year.

Income-earning opportunities were extended to those who couldn’t access traditional employment or government income support through the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said, confirming earlier data which suggested workers turned to insecure gig work during through the economic downturn.

Some 57% of surveyed delivery riders considered income from Uber Eats “essential” as COVID-19 shutdowns impacted Australian businesses.

“More than three-quarters of delivery workers (77%) on Uber Eats were also ineligible for government support during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report added, with most of those delivery workers barred from support payments due to their visa status.

The report also boasts that take-home pay for Sydney delivery riders varied between $20.74 to $21.97 per hour at peak meal times, depending on the mode of transportation used.

Those figures were bolstered by a dramatic uptick in Australia’s spending on food delivery services through the pandemic, which Uber Eats expects to continue.

“Although food delivery may have operated as an alternative during the pandemic, it has become embedded in the Australian lifestyle, and will continue to be a critical component of Australia’s hospitality sector,” the report said.

“Key principles” launched ahead of final taskforce report

The carefully-worded report, compiled by Accenture, comes as the food delivery sector prepares to receive new rider safety guidelines from the NSW Government’s Food Delivery Rider Safety Joint Taskforce.

The taskforce, established in late 2020 after the deaths of five NSW delivery riders in two months, is expected to release its final recommendations in the coming days.

The taskforce has already revealed draft industry guidelines, and Uber Eats recently introduced new in-app features it claims will boost rider safety in Australia.

But the new Uber Eats paper appears to preempt the taskforce’s final recommendations, with the company issuing nine “key principles” it hopes will “guide platforms and government to help improve platform work.”

While acknowledging “not all platform work is a high-wage option,” the report states platforms must be more “transparent” about earning opportunities.

And in its praise for the flexibility provided by platforms like Uber Eats, the report concedes riders “are also subject to some artificial penalties, such as no sick leave or annual leave.”

Policy makers should also consider providing “portable” long service leave for gig economy workers, the report suggests.

Despite those concessions, the nine guidelines fall short of granting delivery riders the full suite of entitlements offered to full employees, like a minimum wage.

The report also calls for further government support for riders experiencing “hardship and uncertainty,” without calling for increased oversight over the industry.

“As this report has shown, being able to access platform work quickly and with low barriers to entry is important to many, especially at times of economic downturn,” the paper states.

The report’s recommendations are unlikely to gain the backing of the Transport Worker’s Union (TWU), who last week withdrew from the NSW taskforce, claiming a “sustained refusal” to address the “economic pressures that force riders to work dangerously and fatigued.”

The taskforce will instead “absolve companies from addressing serious risk hazards and the government from addressing legislative gaps,” claimed TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.