Calls for emergency safety regulation into the gig economy have emerged after the 4th delivery rider death in the space of two months in Sydney alone.
The calls for emergency safety regulation come after Sydney’s 4th delivery rider death, with five delivery riders having been killed nationwide in the past three months.
Unions have criticised the industry for a lack of regulation and a disregard for the safety of its contractors, while the Opposition have called for significant industry reform to improve the OH&S of individuals working for popular delivery services.
The NSW Government has announced it will investigate after the 4th delivery rider death on Sydney roads in just a few months, setting up a specialised taskforce to investigate whether calls for regulation could be effective.
Since September 27, a food delivery rider has died on average every eleven days across Australia, prompting calls for safety regulation after the 4th delivery rider death in Sydney alone.
The Government’s investigation will include the creation of a task force governed by SafeWork NSW and Transport for NSW, with the intention of determining what safety procedures were in place, and whether or not any of the delivery rider deaths could have been prevented with things like OH&S policies or a dedicated safety plan.
Kevin Anderson, the Minister for Better Regulation has said that the taskforce would “assess the safety measures currently implemented by each food delivery operator,” and “make findings for any immediate improvements or compliance activity.”
According to figures from a Transport Workers’ Union survey, delivery riders earn, on average, $10.42 after expenses, and 73% of riders responded that they were concerned about the risk of being “seriously hurt or killed,” while riding.
Comments from the Transport Workers Union’s National Secretary, Michael Kaine made clear calls for regulation in the industry, including reviews on how gig economy giants like Uber Eats and Deliveroo classify their riders.
“This is a sector that’s totally unregulated,” Kaine said, adding that “you have these massive companies who force these workers to be classified as independent contractors and that means they don’t get the same protections that other employees across the economy do.”
“The result of that is they’re not trained, they don’t have appropriate protective equipment, they are not provided with the safety systems that other workers are provided,” Kaine concluded.
Greens MP, David Shoebridge has said that he expects the task force to uncover little of what the public already knows, adding that “gig economy workers need training, safety equipment, workers compensation and to be paid the minimum wage.”
Shoebridge added that “it’s good the government recognises there is a problem, here, but this isn’t a solution- it’s a delaying tactic at best.”
Uber Eats has issued a statement regarding the latest delivery rider death in Sydney saying that “on Monday evening we learned the incredibly sad news that an Uber Eats delivery partner had passed away following a road accident in the Sydney CBD.”
“We notified Safework NSW and contracted our insurance team about the incident,” it said.
“In isolation this fatality is devastating… but when considered alongside the other recent incidents across the on-demand food delivery sector, it is all the more concerning. It is clear the industry needs to do more to improve road safety, and we are committed to playing a leading role in achieving this.”
The Opposition’s spokesperson for the gig economy, Daniel Mookhey has described what the party believes is a “massive crisis” for the sector, expecting it to become more severe over the holiday season.
Mookhey said that multiple deaths in other industries would not have been tolerated by government, regulators or the buying public, and that the recent deaths of delivery riders should provoke movements to “end the safety crisis.” He added that the government should implement “emergency regulations” to increase the state of safety in the industry.
“SafeWork NSW doesn’t need a task force to investigate, it is their job. Safework NSW should be explaining why they haven’t issued any prohibition orders to any of these platforms where riders have died,” he told The Guardian.
“Instead of announcing a meeting, the minister should be announcing a new emergency regulation to delivery better standards right now,” he said, adding that “the government should also be backing Labor’s bill to provide minimum safety standards and equipment for riders.”
Federal Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter has said that “every worker, no matter how their employment arrangements are structured, has the right to a safe working environment and to come home to their families at the end of each day.”
“That’s why I intend to have rider safety added as a priority agenda item for the next meeting of the national work health and safety ministers.”