There’s no doubt about it: Australians have really taken to the ease of food delivery services.
But while we’ve all been enjoying the ease of laziness that apps like UberEats, Deliveroo and Foodora offer us, the people who actually ride the stuff to your door have been suffering.
Three in four riders earn less than minimum wage, one in four riders work full time hours, and 45 percent say they or someone they know has been hurt on the job, according to a survey released by the Transport Workers’ Union.
The survey – which spoke to 160 delivery riders in Melbourne in Sydney – found that many riders feel unsafe in their work, and want to fix what they see as a broken system.
One respondent, a 20-year-old Deliveroo rider, said they were hit “nearly once a week” while working, while other riders reported being ‘doored’ by cars.
“My friend was in an accident with a taxi driver and got a broken bone,” one respondent said.
The report also trashed assumptions that these roles are supplementary to other, more secure forms of income, with a quarter of riders (26.4 percent) working more than 40 hours a week, and three quarters (76 percent) working at least 20. A small percentage of riders reported working upwards of 80 hours a week, raising safety concerns for themselves and other commuters.
According to the TWU, almost all current riders are paid per delivery. Some are paid a flat rate, while others are paid a dynamic rate per delivery to account for distance and time travelled. A very small number of riders receive hourly pay, but most of these contracts have been phased out.
TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says this is nothing short of wage theft.
“This is a damning indictment of the abuse of workers in Australia today,” he said. “Wealthy companies are engaging in wage theft, ripping workers off, leaving them without compensation when they get injured and not paying their superannuation. These riders are crying out for guaranteed hours, fair rates of pay, rain gear, work cover, sick pay and insurance for their bikes. The Federal Government may think this way of engaging workers is ‘exciting’ but the survey today shows the levels of exploitation which exist in the on-demand economy.”
Uber and Deliveroo provided statements to Fairfax affirming that rider safety was tantamount, and that both companies were basically doing an alright job.
Uber said that flexible hours was one of the key reasons people chose to work as an UberEats rider, while Deliveroo said that it takes “great care to inform riders about how they can maximise their earnings.”
But obviously, not everyone’s convinced. Dozens of people marched today to calling on Malcolm Turnbull to address worker exploitation within the gig economy.
Rally at State Library to kick off the #rights4riders campaign for on-demand food riders. Need to #changetherules so gig workers get the same basic rights (min.wage, super, workers comp) every worker deserves @TWUAus @unionsaustralia pic.twitter.com/sOoBEVFlWo
— Jim Stanford (@JimboStanford) January 31, 2018
— Rose Steele (@raz_steele) January 31, 2018
Joellen Riley, Professor of Labour Law and Dean at the University of Sydney Law School, told Fairfax that the findings of the survey were consistent with reports around the world, and raised concerns.
“There will be some tragedies [that] happen if we don’t begin looking at that particular work and thinking about the best way to make sure there is some protection for those workers,” she said.Image: Getty Images / Dan Kitwood