Culture

How Can We Make Food Delivery A Safer Job?

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Five food delivery cyclists have been killed on Australian roads in the past two months.

What’s going on in the food delivery industry that’s leading to these kinds of tragic accidents?

And what can be done to protect the people who are cycling around our cities to make their living?

Deaths On The Road

The most recent death happened in Sydney, when a food delivery rider was hit by a truck in Surry Hills.

Just days before that happened, a young man was killed in Rockdale in south Sydney during a delivery trip.

His name was Bijoy Paul and he was a 27 year old Bangladeshi student who was living in Australia finishing off his masters degree in IT.

Naaman Zhou is a Guardian journalist who’s been covering the stories of these riders, and he reported that on average in Australia, one delivery rider has died on the job every 11 days since late September.

These deaths have led to a public outpouring of grief and there are really loud calls now to make sure the people bringing food to our homes are safe when they do.

Michael Kaine: “People are dying, families are being left destitute, and these workers who provide such a valuable service – and have done through this COVID crisis, have been called heroes of the pandemic – are being left in really, really terrible situations.”

That’s Michael Kaine. He thinks that now is the time to call for a massive overhaul of the delivery rider system to protect workers’ lives.

So, what are the biggest problems with food delivery work?

What It’s Like Working In Food Delivery

Well for a start, we need to talk about the pressure that these riders are under.

Delivery riders for takeaway apps are treated pretty poorly by the companies they’re propping up.

Here in Australia, on average delivery riders make about $10.40 an hour and the expectations of them are really high.

MK: “They have to respond within a second sometimes to receive a job. And then of course if for some reason – usually out of their control – they’re delayed on that job, then they’re quickly told by an algorithm that they need to hurry up and get their work performed. And if they have a couple of delays in a row, they can be kicked off the platform completely with no recourse.”

Most riders also aren’t given any training when they start working for these companies. They’re just expected to head out and ride around, even in pretty chaotic weather conditions.

It’s dangerous work and it’s mostly being done by people who are here on temporary or student visas.

When things do go wrong, how riders are insured and how much compensation families receive if a relative is killed on the job is totally up to each company.

All of this comes down to the fact that food delivery companies keep workers at an arm’s length by taking them on as independent contractors instead of employees, so they miss out on all the standard benefits and protections.

So, what needs to change for delivery riders to get the same treatment as other works?

What Needs To Change?

MK: “We need the federal government to step up and put a national system in place. A system whereby workers could go to a commission or a tribunal, and that tribunal could look into this work, and put in place rights and obligations to support these workers, and to hold these companies to account.”

A tribunal could make basic things like minimum wage, penalty rates, and better insurance accessible to riders.

The NSW Government have said that they’re going to launch an inquiry into whether or not the deaths were avoidable but nothing has been said about setting up any kind of permanent support system yet.

MK: “Let’s hold these companies to account. They’re reaping billions, the least that they could do is make sure the workers they engage are safe.”

The Takeaway

Millions of us rely on delivery riders every year but these workers are being totally denied the same benefits as other Australian workers.

The treatment of these independent contractors has to change and now is the right time to be calling for that change – before another rider’s life is lost on our roads.