Hungry Panda riders will today deliver demands to head office over worsening pay and dangerous pressure to meet short delivery deadlines. The lead organiser of the protest will also file an adverse action claim in the Fair Work Commission, over orders being withheld from her account in recent days.
Today’s action follows a snap protest in Burwood last Thursday.
On Friday, the TWU wrote to Hungry Panda on behalf of protest organiser Ms Zhuoying Wang regarding suspected adverse action against the rider after she received no orders for two days while promoting the protest. Later that day, Ms Wang received five orders, an extremely low number for a public holiday, and has received no orders since.
In 2021, Hungry Panda sacked two riders who organised protests over pay cuts. After six weeks of rider protests and unfair dismissal claims, their pay rates were restored and the two sacked riders reinstated – one of whom, Jun Yang, has arranged today’s protest.
The protests follow a drop in the base delivery rate from $7 to $4 for motorcycle riders and from $6 to $5 for bicycle riders. Hungry Panda’s ‘bonus’ scheme asks riders to complete a particular number of deliveries in a set timeframe to receive a one-off payment. To qualify for the bonuses, riders must meet unrealistic, unsafe deadlines.
In a stark example of the dangers caused by incessant pressure to rush, two of last week’s strike participants have been injured on the job in the past five days.
In 2022, the family of Xiaojun Chen was awarded $834,000 in a landmark workers’ compensation case over the death of the Hungry Panda rider in 2020. The win came after a court battle, as food delivery riders are not automatically entitled to workers’ compensation.
Hungry Panda’s injury insurance scheme pays a maximum of $500 a week to riders unable to work due to injuries sustained on the job – only $11 above the poverty line.
Riders will today provide management with a list of demands including pay increases, the scrapping of unsafe deadlines, better injury insurance, a fairer order distribution system and to stop over-hiring riders so that existing riders can make a sustainable living.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said:
“Food delivery riders are racing towards death under pressure to keep up with unrealistic delivery deadlines imposed by algorithms. Workers just trying to make a living are pushed to rush, are pitted against each other in an overcrowded rider pool, and have had their pay rates arbitrarily decline, forcing them to work longer and faster to put food on the table.
“History is repeating itself at Hungry Panda. Riders bravely standing up against pay cuts and deadly pressures are being targeted and punished. Protest organiser Zhouying Wang received only five orders in six days, earning just $25. We won’t stand for this type of constructive dismissal in response to riders’ reasonable calls for a safe, sustainable job.
“This ordeal just goes to show how volatile this industry is without minimum standards in place. While Uber, DoorDash and Menulog are supportive of reform to set standards in the gig economy, Hungry Panda is clearly the outlier.
“Ground-breaking legislation to set safe, fair and sustainable minimum standards for all transport workers including those in the gig economy is currently before the Senate. There is no time to lose in passing this reform into law,” he said.