TWU demands regulation as delivery rider killed in Melbourne

A food delivery rider has been killed in Melbourne with reports suggesting his family were not informed of his death for over 24 hours.

Chow Khai Shien, a 36-year-old from Malaysia, died after being struck by a stolen car on Saturday in the CBD. Online Chinese language media Sydney Today reported that his sister and family were distraught after not hearing from him for 26 hours.

The death of Mr Chow, who worked for DoorDash and previously UberEats, brings to three the number of delivery riders killed in the last month, with an UberEats rider and a Hungry Panda rider dying in separate in Sydney crashes.

TWU Victorian Tasmanian Branch Secretary John Berger said the TWU reported the incident to Safe Work Victoria as it wants the workplace death investigated.

“The events that took place at the weekend are utterly shocking. A much-loved brother, son and friend died while working as a delivery rider and it appears the family did not hear about it for over 24 hours. The Victorian government has begun the process of examining regulation of the gig economy. This incident should leave it in no doubt that regulation is urgently needed,” he said.

“Throughout the Victorian lockdown food delivery riders have been among the heroes who have allowed people to self-isolate and receive meals, and also allowed restaurants to stay open for business. The notion that they have no rights to minimum pay, sick leave, training or protective gear is abhorrent. The idea that their company has so little duty of care to them that it takes over 24 hours for family to be informed when a rider is killed is disgusting. The TWU has reported the incident to Safe Work Victoria as we want to see this incident investigated as a workplace death,” Berger added.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Federal Government has allowed companies like Uber to enter Australia without regulation.

“There is no regulation to say that DoorDash or UberEats had to tell Khai Shien’s family of his death, had to provide him with workers compensation, has to assist his family or compensate them in any way. Gig economy companies are being allowed to deny their workers’ rights, even in death. When these companies do choose to help or provide insurance, it is at their discretion. The Federal Government and government agencies are refusing to hold them to account simply because of the way they have structured their businesses. Gig economy workers are dying and being exploited because of this hands-off approach overseen by the Federal Government,” he said.

A survey of delivery riders last month showed more than one in three riders has been injured on the job, with the vast majority (80%) receiving no support from their company.

The survey also showed riders’ 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.

The Victorian Government is examining feedback on recommendations from an inquiry into the gig economy, which includes regulation of the sector. A separate inquiry has been set up by the NSW parliament and will begin hearings on November 9th.

Hearings in an unfair dismissal case involving a Deliveroo rider opened last week. The TWU is separately taking a case for gross underpayment against Deliveroo and is appealing a Fair Work Commission ruling on UberEats over an unfair sacking.

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