TWU files unfair dismissal cases for Hungry Panda riders sacked over pay cut protest

The TWU has today filed unfair dismissal cases on behalf of two Hungry Panda riders sacked with immediate effect after organising a protest over unilateral pay cuts.

The cases are the first of their kind against Hungry Panda and come two months after Uber was savaged by Federal Court judges over its business model at an unfair dismissal hearing which it subsequently settled with delivery driver Amita Gupta.

The TWU previously won a case over the unfair sacking of a Foodora rider and has a further unfair dismissal case running against Deliveroo with the final hearing this coming Monday. This week a Dutch court found that Deliveroo riders are employees, agreeing with a previous Amsterdam ruling in 2019.

On Tuesday 2 February, riders Jun Yang and Xiangqian Li arranged a rider protest in Burwood after their pay was slashed 20-30% by Hungry Panda. The same afternoon Jun and Xiangqian each received a Whatsapp message from a Hungry Panda manager stating the company had decided to “negotiate to terminate the cooperative relationship”. Both riders were immediately blocked from the app.

Last year, Hungry Panda rider Xiaojun Chen was killed, leaving a wife and two children without income or compensation as the company has no insurance for its riders. Weeks later, Hungry Panda failed to show up for a NSW Government Inquiry hearing, and later blamed riders for the no-show. Hungry Panda is due to appear at a second hearing of the same inquiry on Tuesday 23 February.

“Hungry Panda has raked in record profits over the last year thanks to the hard work of riders like Jun Yang and Xiangqian Li, who have in turn been treated as a disposable underclass. Riders are paid below minimum wage and have no rights like insurance or PPE. Hungry Panda controls every aspect of riders’ work from slashed pay to uniform blitzes and instantly sacks workers when they take a stand against pay cuts, callously removing the income of two families with the click of a button.

“These workers deserve better. They’re under intense pressure from companies like Hungry Panda to work quickly and dangerously, tearing through the streets at their own risk to provide an essential service for our communities. In light of Federal Court judges’ criticism of Uber’s business model and increasing international findings that workers are employees, it’s time for the Federal Government to act. We urgently need a tribunal to provide workers like Jun and Xiangqian rights and protections regardless of attempts by multinational tech giants to misclassify them,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.

Jun Yang and Xiangqian Li both worked full-time for Hungry Panda to support their wives and children.

A group of riders protested at Hungry Panda’s office last Monday over the pay cut and sacking of riders.

Following pressure from workers and the TWU, Hungry Panda contacted the sacked riders but only offered to put them again through an interview process with a view to hiring them on inferior pay and conditions than they’d had before the sacking.

Hungry Panda has refused to provide the TWU with evidence to back up its claim that riders are not missing out on pay. Riders continue to report a 20-30% drop in their pay.

The TWU has issued Hungry Panda with notices for WHS breaches after the union investigated the company’s documentation following Xiaojun Chen’s death, which have all been ignored. A rider has written to Hungry Panda to invoke rights under WHS legislation to elect health and safety representatives.

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