TWU withdraws from farcical NSW Taskforce over silencing of rider exploitation

The Transport Workers’ Union and riders have formally withdrawn from the NSW Food Delivery Rider Taskforce over its sustained refusal to discuss regulation or tackle the root causes of high rider deaths and injuries, such as economic pressures that force riders to work dangerously and fatigued.

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. However, the Taskforce has continuously silenced workers’ concerns about exploitation and insisted that regulatory change is ‘beyond scope’. The TWU can only conclude that the Taskforce was designed by the NSW Government as a front to divert attention away from the global push for regulation.

The withdrawal from the TWU and its rider members means there will be no worker representation at the final roundtable next week during which the Taskforce will present its Industry Action Plan (IAP).

In a letter to the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, the TWU highlighted its concern that three core issues raised by workers have been removed from the final draft of the IAP:

– Any mention of regulatory change;

– Fatigue rate statistics that were included in earlier drafts; and

– Research concerning the effects of low earnings on dangerous risk-taking behaviour.

The NSW Government’s own report from November 2020 lists pay as the second highest risk factor causing food delivery riders to work unsafely, yet workers were silenced from raising concerns about their pay at Taskforce roundtables and feedback to the IAP.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said there is no other conclusion to draw than that the Taskforce intends to “absolve companies from addressing serious risk hazards and the government from addressing legislative gaps.”

“A Taskforce set up to tackle the tragic deaths of riders that has continuously silenced workers’ key concerns for their safety is not worthy of our support. The NSW Government’s intention is to distract from and undermine the push for regulatory change happening around the world, letting the government off the hook and giving a free pass to food delivery companies.

“Lives won’t be saved by safety videos and piecemeal offerings of PPE, but more lives will be taken by the continuous slashing of rates and threat of the sack if riders don’t keep up with unrealistic timeframes.

“It is deeply unsettling how little the NSW Government cares that riders are being slaughtered on our roads. This is just a PR hazard that they want put to bed. The TWU will not support their quest to shut out riders’ concerns or solutions,” said Kaine.

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.

Surveys have shown:

– Food delivery riders earn as little as $5 per delivery

– 70% say they are struggling to pay bills and buy food

– More than one in three has been injured on the job, with the vast majority (80%) receiving no support from their company

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