November 1, 2019
Food delivery riders are today sending letters to Deliveroo demanding that the company comply with strict workplace health and safety laws to help address the dangerous risks they face, including collisions with cars, lethal falls from their bikes and heat stress.
The action comes as four food delivery riders have died while working, including a rider in September and two in January.
Deliveroo has just 14 days to comply with the Work Health and Safety Act (2011) which will allow workers to set up work groups and to elect health and safety representatives, who will have wide-ranging powers to enforce safety obligations including banning unsafe work.
Unlike the Fair Work Act, Deliveroo will not be able to deny it is liable since the law covers any workers, not just employees, and puts the onus not on a traditional direct employer but anyone “conducting a business or undertaking” related to the work.
“Riders have taken a brave step today to hold Deliveroo to account for their safety at work. This company is ignoring safety to line its own pockets. Today riders are saying safety is important and that they want Deliveroo to comply with the law, give them the focus on safety they want and allow them to elect their safety representatives. The problem with safety for delivery riders shows the need for over-arching regulation on all aspects of the job. The Federal Government has chosen not to regulate the gig economy and so workers are being injured, put at risk, denied minimum wages, denied sick leave and have no right to challenge unfair sackings. Riders are again being forced to take a piecemeal approach and to take these companies on one by one and issue by issue,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
Riders are given minimal inductions and no training when they take the job, they do not have adequate protective gear and because of the ratings system to obtain shifts they must undertake work even if they are sick or if conditions are dangerous, such as during storms and extreme heat.
Deliveroo announced recently it had set up safety panels with riders hand-picked by the company to sit on the panels. WHS laws would require the company to go much further and ensure safety representatives are chosen by workers, not the company.
The move on safety comes as the TWU called for gig economy workers to be automatically in a trade union, to ensure they have protections and support against exploitation and safety risks.
“Since arriving in Australia, Deliveroo has stripped workers of their rights: there are no guaranteed hourly rates, delivery distances have increased causing a 30-40% drop in pay, and the company has terminated workers without warning or the chance to appeal. While our industrial laws are facilitating this stripping away of rights the workplace health and safety laws are robust and we expect Deliveroo to be held to account on safety,” he added.
The delivery riders behind the letters say the work is dangerous and that riders need protection.
“We’re on the road in dangerous conditions, bad weather, rush hour traffic, and at night. We have no protective gear or rights like sick leave or compensation when something goes wrong. We are even pressured to keep going even if it provides a risk to our safety, otherwise we might struggle to get work in the future. Food delivery riders are frequently injured and some have even been killed at work. We are asking for Deliveroo to step up to its legal obligations to protect workers so that we can come home safe at the end of every shift,” said delivery rider Marcello.
The Transport Workers’ Union and delivery riders have been exposing exploitation in the gig economy for the past two years, forming a group called the Delivery Riders Alliance.
A survey of food delivery riders shows three out of four are paid below minimum rates. Almost 50% of riders had either been injured on the job or knew someone who had.