TWU warns more riders will die as NSW Taskforce refuses to regulate

The Transport Workers’ Union has slammed the NSW Taskforce for downgrading the crisis in food delivery and caving to pressure from companies to roll back a global push for gig economy reform.

“Food delivery companies will be popping the champagne today as the NSW Government refuses to act on exploitation that is literally killing riders on our roads,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.

Last week the union and its rider members withdrew from the Taskforce over its sustained silencing of workers on exploitation and insistence that regulatory change was ‘beyond scope’. The TWU refused to endorse the wholly inadequate ‘Industry Action Plan’ (IAP), which will be presented at the concluding roundtable today.

The ‘Industry Action Plan’ accompanies a set of WHS Guidelines published by the Taskforce last month which the union criticised for misrepresenting the relationship between riders and food delivery companies. The guidelines overemphasised workers’ obligations for safety in highly dependent, exploitative work arrangements and undermined protections under the WHS Act.

A newer version of the guidelines has switched responsibility for PPE from riders to companies, but the TWU’s other concerns have been ignored and some safety improvements removed, such as fixing algorithm pressures that cause unrealistic delivery schedules.

In November, the NSW Government’s own report stated time pressures and low earnings were the two leading causes of unsafe behaviour (Centre for WHS).

“At a time of tragedy, mourning food delivery riders and the public looked to this NSW Taskforce to show courage and lead the way to regulatory reform that would prevent more deaths. The Taskforce has taken that opportunity and trashed it, opting instead to bow down to company pressure to silence workers and ignore deadly exploitation.

“Throughout the process, the TWU and workers have been gagged over concerns that low pay and contract pressures force riders to work quickly, fatigued and without protections.

“The Federal Government must step in and regulate to ensure gig economy workers have minimum rights and protections,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.

The announcement of the Taskforce followed the tragic deaths of five food delivery riders in just two months last year, four of which occurred in Sydney.

The withdrawal from the TWU and its rider members means there will be no worker representation at today’s roundtable or endorsement of the Industry Action Plan.

The TWU has taken several cases against gig economy companies, including a former case Uber rushed to settle after Federal Court Judges savaged its business model, and two current cases for unfair sacking and gross underpayment against Deliveroo.

Click here for the TWU’s letter to NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson withdrawing from the Taskforce.

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