Those tasty meals that nice people on bikes deliver to you are about to face a wee little (read: actually pretty damned big) test of law.

Foodora and Deliveroo‘s operations in Australia are about to come under scrutiny from a legal test case that will examine whether or not the way both food delivery companies pay their delivery riders is in breach of the Fair Work Act.

Fairfax reports that Maurice Blackburn lawyers are preparing to launch a case against the “disruptor” companies, alleging that riders are vastly underpaid (as little as $10 an hour) due to the way both companies classify them.

We knew already that the pay conditions for riders weren’t exactly shithot – riders wages vary depending on “experience” and which company they work for, and are largely dependent on how many deliveries a rider can make. But what’s interesting here is that the case is looking into the status of the riders as “independent contractors,” which is how they’re currently classified.

Riders, in order to work for the companies, need to have their own ABNs and technically operate as their own bosses. However the Australian Business Registrar has cancelled some riders ABNs due to the nature of their work seemingly being more in line with an actual employee of a specific company, rather than being a sole independent operator.

And that’s at the crux of this new test case: Whether or not the work and conditions Foodora and Deliveroo make their riders undertake is still loose enough for people to be considered independent contractors, or whether it means they should be actual employees of the company. If the looming test case finds its the latter, then Foodora and Deliveroo would be libel to pay riders according to the award wage, as well as allow for penalty rates and benefits, which are currently not afforded to riders.

Central to the argument is rider testimony that the companies insist on riders wearing uniforms to represent the brand, are given regular repeated shifts, demand riders wait in designated holding areas (often a public park or square) between deliveries, and are indistinguishable from what an employed rider of the company might look like.

If successful, riders would be entitled to hourly pay-rates of around $23 an hour with penalty rates on weekends, as well as superannuation payments, WorkCover insurance, and leave entitlements.

Outwardly, however, both companies are sticking to their guns.

Deliveroo issued a short statement trumpeting the flexibility in the work they offer to riders.

“Riders are attracted to working with us because we offer incredibly flexible work. Typically, this appeals because they do these hours alongside study or another job. As a result, we offer a variety of payment models – all designed to enhance the flexibility.”

Meanwhile Foodora stated that riders can earn as much as $30 an hour “on a busy night.

The food delivery war is a harsh business, y’all.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald.

Photo: Bernard Weil/Getty.