Seven health and safety representatives have been elected to represent Sydney riders at Deliveroo, the first such representatives ever elected at a gig economy company in Australia despite the roles being commonplace at most workplaces.
The representatives who are themselves riders will be able to assist co-workers enforce their rights as they deal with dangerous risks including collisions with cars, lethal falls from their bikes and heat stress. The representatives have powers and responsibilities to take action to improve safety, with some of these powers including emergency stop work directions, improvement notices over breaches and forcing the company to consult on workplace safety matters.
The election follows months of delays and obstacles by Deliveroo to the process, including initial proposals to have representatives covering large geographical areas which would have made their work impossible.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the election under workplace health and safety laws is vital following the deaths of five riders in September and October.
“The election of health and safety representatives by their co-workers is a milestone for the gig economy in Australia. This is an important step towards holding these companies to account for ensuring a safe working environment. Deliveroo was dragged kicking and screaming into accepting that workplace place health and safety laws apply to them and that elected representatives should not be forced to cover vast geographical areas that would make the roles unworkable. We still have legal proceedings continuing over their refusal to implement these laws fully but now Deliveroo riders have representatives to turn to when they need assistance on keeping safe,” he said.
“This is just the first step to making this job safe. A major component is addressing the risks associated with the pressure riders are under to speed and work long hours. To do this we need regulation in place to ensure riders have appropriate minimum rates, the right to challenge an arbitrary sacking if they are a few minutes late with a delivery, the right to training, insurance and protective gear. Riders across Australia need these rights which is why we are calling on the Federal Government to regulate and protect delivery riders,” Kaine said.
Riders and the TWU formally sought assistance from Safe Work NSW a year ago to force Deliveroo to adhere to workplace health and safety laws. The union took action in the Fair Work Commission over Deliveroo’s refusal to provide adequate local representative structures to workers. Legal proceedings continue to ensure Deliveroo follows the law.
Deliveroo tried to hijack the legal process, announcing it had set up safety panels with riders hand-picked by the company to sit on advisory panels. But workplace health and safety laws require the company to go much further and ensure safety representatives are chosen by workers, not the company.
Separately, the TWU is taking a landmark case for full compensation against Uber on behalf of the wife and four-year-old son of Dede Fredy, a rider killed in Sydney in September.
The claim has been filed against NSW workers compensation insurer iCare and Uber and will be pursued in a test case at the Workers Compensation Commission. Such a test case will be the first ever brought against a gig economy company in pursuit of full rights under workers’ compensation.
A survey of delivery riders in September showed average earnings after costs was just over $10 an hour while almost 90% have seen their pay decrease and 70% say they are struggling to pay bills and buy food.
The pandemic has left the essential workers exposed with more than half saying they did not have enough masks, gloves and sanitiser.
More than one in three riders has been injured on the job, with the vast majority (80%) receiving no support from their company.
The TWU and former Deliveroo rider Diego Franco have taken Deliveroo to the Fair Work Commission over his unfair sacking by the company last April. Deliveroo say they sacked Mr Franco because he didn’t go fast enough with his deliveries.
The TWU won a case for unfair sacking against Foodora in 2018.
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