An Uber driver was allegedly attacked by a passenger with hammers, opening up questions about the increasingly precarious safety of gig economy workers.
The incident occured in Brisbane’s inner west, after the 51-year-old Uber driver travelled to Robertson Park at Taringa at 3.20am to pick up a passenger.
According to police, a man approached the car and confirmed he was the customer that was meant to be picked up. He got into the car along with two other men, and then they allegedly began attacking the driver with hammers.
Police say the trio then pulled the driver out of the car and stole his vehicle.
The driver sustained serious head injuries and was taken to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital where he is undergoing surgery, per ABC News.
Police are seeking help in finding his car, a 2020 white Toyota Camry with the registration 775 CJ9 and have urged anyone who witnessed the attack or has any information to come forward.
The alleged attack comes after a spate of injuries and fatalities of gig economy workers including those who work for Uber.
Scott Cabrie was one such fatality.
The body of the 47-year-old Uber driver, from Hervey Bay, was found dumped on Fraser coast in Queensland in February.
Police allege Cabrie was killed by two teenage boys, aged 17 and 18, during an Uber trip. His car was found burned out during the investigation.
“This whole town loved and respected him,” one friend wrote on Facebook after news broke of his death.
“I called him the mayor of Hervey Bay. The guy was loved and respected around town.
Akshay Doultani, a 22-year-old Uber Eats driver, also died while working for Uber.
The Indian national had moved to Sydney from Mumbai in February after he nabbed a scholarship to complete his Master’s in Finance and Macquarie University.
While he studied, he also worked as an Uber Eats driver to support his family back home.
He was tragically killed last month after an SUV hit his motorbike in Epping, north west Sydney, leaving his family grieving their only son. They didn’t even get to say goodbye, and his uncle had to travel from abroad to retrieve his body and return him home.
Doultani was the 12th food delivery driver to be killed in Australia since 2017, ABC News reported, and it’s led the Transport Workers’ union to call for gig economy workers to have better working conditions including minimum pay, sick leave, holiday leave, breaks and — crucially — workers comp.
“If those things are not in place, then these workers are going to continue to be under these deadly pressures,” Transport Workers’ Union National Secretary Michael Kaine told ABC News.
“We’ve got to get a system in place that recognises these workers as workers.
Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke told ABC News legislation reforming the gig economy to introduce a minimum pay and better conditions will be introduced into parliament in the coming weeks.
“As long as this area of the economy remains regulation free, there’s effectively no minimum rate,” he told the publication.
“Rates can go lower and lower and lower for riders and there is a direct line from being paid fairly and being able to work in a safe way.”
The new legislation comes off the back of reforms last year when the NSW Government introduced new laws which required food delivery companies to provide their riders with high-visibility protective equipment and training.
However, TWU’s Michael Kaine says this isn’t enough.
“It’s not good enough to simply target these workers and say you need to wear a vest … because that’s dealing with the symptoms,” he told ABC News.
“The cause is making sure the pressures that are on them pressuring them to work hell for leather are lifted.”
Uber Eats said in a statement to ABC News that it has policies in place to keep its delivery workers safe.
“In Australia, Uber Eats delivery people are covered by a support package designed specifically for them,” a company spokesperson told the publication.
Let’s hope we see some reform in the coming weeks to better protect gig economy workers. They’re just entitled to a safe working environment as everyone else — and should be just as entitled to workers’ comp when things aren’t safe, too.