New guidelines from the NSW government aimed at improving safety in the gig economy may as well have been penned by Uber and ignore the compounding pressures leading to dangerous conditions for delivery riders, the Transport Workers Union says.
The NSW government established a taskforce to improve the safety of gig economy workers following the deaths of five delivery riders in the space of two months late last year. The Joint Taskforce on food delivery rider safety is led by SafeWork NSW and Transport for NSW, and is expected to unveil its final guidelines this week.
The guidelines were discussed and given the green light at the taskforce’s final roundtable, held in Sydney on Thursday.
But no delivery riders were present at this roundtable after the Transport Workers Union after its members quit the taskforce last week, labelling it “farcical” and criticising it for not taking stronger action.
At a press conference held below the roundtable meeting, TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the taskforce’s final recommendations will do nothing to address the dangerous issues for delivery riders, including low rates of pay and scheduling pressure created by algorithms.
“This is not an action plan, it is an inaction plan. This guidelines process has failed to deal with the deadly pressures that are killing riders on our roads. It has left those deadly pressures untouched, unacknowledged and unregulated,” Mr Kaine said.
“It looks as though these guidelines have been penned by Uber or Deliveroo themselves. This government has caved into the pressure from these massive companies and accepted hook, line and sinker their version of how they want the world to look.”
Steve, a Deliveroo delivery rider, had taken part in the taskforce’s roundtable, but said he had also chosen to withdraw from it.
“I just feel it’s pointless to stay on with how it’s going about it at the moment,” Steve told the media.
“Reasonable pay is all we’re asking for, so it doesn’t compel us to rush from one place to the other. There is a clear link from our income stream to our health and safety. The problem with this taskforce is they’re ignoring it because they just want to talk about health and safety.
“But you have to link it with the core issues of why it’s happening. We need state government interventions, we need some kind of regulation in this economy otherwise there’ll be more deaths.”
Esteban, who is also a delivery rider, was recently injured after falling off his bike on light rail tracks in the rain while rushing to complete a job.
“I just don’t want this happening anymore,” he said. “Safety in this occupation is very critical and it’s something that’s not being taken into account properly. Fellow riders have died, most of them immigrants.
“I put myself in their shoes, and I imagine what will happen with me and my family if I come to this country with a lot of dreams and suddenly I just died because of a lack of safety in my job. It’s very disappointing.”
The launch of the taskforce came with renewed hope that action would be taken to protect delivery riders, but this has now been “extinguished”, Mr Kaine said.
“That’s what the NSW government is going to announce in the coming days, that it is extinguishing hope that things will get better for riders in the gig economy,” he said.
“We were told absolutely that the government would take no regulatory steps to improve conditions for riders, it would take no steps to ensure that responsibility was placed on these behemoths and would not listen and not take into account or acknowledge the key pressures that exist that are creating these problems.”