Hungry Panda riders will protest on Monday over a unilateral pay cut and the sacking of a rider for organising a strike over the slashed pay. Yesterday the TWU and two Hungry Panda riders met with the company but Hungry Panda has continued with its belligerent approach and refused to reverse the pay cut.
Riders received a message on Saturday that their pay would be reduced with riders given no opportunity to negotiate the cut. A group of riders took strike action over the slashed pay which resulted in a rider James Yang being sacked.
Hungry Panda in an email to the TWU refused to reverse the pay cut, which has seen riders pay reduced by roughly 20%. The company claimed that they will use the money from the slashed pay to provide an insurance policy for riders, but made that insurance dependent on riders calling off their protest action.
A Hungry Panda rider, Xiaojun Chen was killed at work. His wife, children and elderly parents were left with nothing as Hungry Panda had no insurance.
Weeks after Xiaojun Chen was killed, Hungry Panda failed to show up for its slot at the NSW Government inquiry into the gig economy. The company later blamed their no-show on riders turning up to their office with questions.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine says the pay cut will put more pressure on riders to work faster and more dangerously, while workers have no say over their pay and are sacked for striking over cuts.
“With no opportunity to negotiate, James Yang exercised what little power riders have, which was to withdraw labour and Hungry Panda terminated him from the app. This approach to sack a rider the company claims to be an independent contractor with flexible working arrangements over a stop work protest is as contradictory as Hungry Panda’s sham contracts.
“Last year Hungry Panda rider Xiaojun Chen was tragically killed at work. His wife and children have been left struggling to survive because Hungry Panda paid them no compensation. Now, Hungry Panda is putting more pressure on riders to work dangerously over longer hours to make ends meet, and the company responds to riders appeals for this unilateral decision to be reversed by blackmailing them with insurance coverage for if they’re killed or injured only if they agree not to protest against the company,” Kaine said.
The TWU has issued notices for WHS breaches after the union investigated Hungry Panda’s documentation following Xiaojun Chen’s death, which have all been ignored.
“Hungry Panda should be ashamed of themselves. The company has displayed heartless indifference as to whether its workers live or die. They have shown no respect for riders or their families, Australian workplace rights, WHS legislation or even the Australian Government itself,” added Kaine.
Hungry Panda’s pay cut came days after Uber sent its riders new terms and conditions including revoking pay if a customer complains, without giving riders right of reply. Riders from UberEats and other companies will join the protest on Monday in support of Hungry Panda riders.
The TWU is calling for the Federal Government to implement a tribunal that will set minimum standards for workers.
“Federal Government inaction has sent a message to these companies that they can push increasingly exploitative and life-threatening conditions onto workers, only pulling back when Federal Court judges, bad publicity or pressure from workers make it too risky to continue. Then they’ll simply change everything again to avoid their obligations to workers.
“We urgently need a tribunal that can ensure all workers have protections and rights regardless of the efforts made by companies to evade them,” said Kaine.
A Hungry Panda rider this week sent a letter to the company invoking rights under WHS legislation. The letter mirrors those sent by riders to Deliveroo which has since seen health and safety representatives elected.