Ubereats safety equipment welcomed but deadly pressures unchanged: TWU

The TWU has welcomed Uber’s introduction of basic safety equipment including lights, bells and reflective vests for UberEats riders, but warns that this move only goes partially towards tackling a symptom and not the cause of safety issues in food delivery. The fatal pressures imposed by Uber’s exploitative business model continue to put food delivery riders in grave danger.

The TWU has criticised Uber for failing to provide helmets and other safety equipment such as wet weather gear or protective clothing, meaning the company still falls well short of obligations under the WHS Act. Uber has introduced technology to detect whether underpaid riders are wearing a helmet, which they must buy themselves.

The introduction of basic safety equipment follows the tragic deaths of five food delivery riders in just two months last year including three UberEats riders, taking the company’s death toll in Sydney to at least seven in four years. The NSW Government set up a Taskforce following the deaths, but the TWU argues the guidelines it produced fail to impose the regulation needed to keep workers safe.

Last month Uber’s sham business model was dealt a major blow when the UK Supreme Court ruled drivers were ‘workers’ and have rights.

In Australia, Uber rushed to settle TWU’s unfair dismissal case on behalf of delivery driver Amita Gupta after Federal Court judges savaged its business model. Uber subsequently forced new contracts onto riders which come into effect today.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine has congratulated riders and drivers for forcing Uber to make improvements to safety but says this is a band aid solution brought about by adverse publicity that fails to tackle exploitation as the root cause of safety issues.

“These small improvements to safety are down to the bravery and tenacity of food delivery riders and the families of riders tragically killed that have bravely spoken out against Silicon Valley behemoths and continue to fight for safe rates of pay and conditions at Uber.

“No one should be fooled by Uber’s pretence. If the tech giant really cared about the safety of its riders, it would provide all of the relevant safety equipment including helmets and protective clothing and tear down its exploitative business model that is killing and injuring riders at alarming rates. Food delivery riders continue to work under deadly pressures imposed by Uber’s sham contracts: low pay that can be decreased or revoked by Uber at any time, unrealistic delivery times, and opaque performance metrics that force riders to work longer and faster to make ends meet.

“This announcement is still missing fundamental safety equipment that Uber is obligated to provide under the WHS Act. Instead of providing helmets, Uber is putting the onus on underpaid riders to buy their own and has splashed out on more tech to give the illusion that Uber is doing the right thing while actually skirting responsibility. Riders are frequently sacked without warning or right of reply because of Uber’s algorithms, this is just another piece of tech thrown into the mix for riders to worry about.

“This move, which follows the NSW Taskforce’s limp guidelines shows that when government attitudes fail to address the core safety implications of exploitation, food delivery companies will make bare minimum changes for some good PR, while continuing to rip off workers and put them in danger. We need a tribunal that can enforce minimum standards and protections to ensure workers have safe rates of pay and conditions,” said Kaine.

The TWU’s feedback to the NSW Taskforce rejects its guidelines for undermining the rights and protections of workers under the WHS Act and ignoring the intrinsic safety issues of exploitation. Click here for the TWU’s submission.

Last week food delivery riders and a rideshare driver met Attorney General Christian Porter in Canberra to appeal for regulation. The group also met Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese who reinforced his commitment to give minimum wage and rights to gig workers.

At least seven UberEats riders have been killed in Sydney in a four-year period:

Julien Trameaux 2017

Kuan Wei “Bill” Chen 2019

Su Po Hsu 2019

Chin Kim Pei 2019

Dede Fredy 2020

Bijoy Paul 2020

Ik Wong 2020

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