Food delivery riders and the Transport Workers Union say that proposals for new laws to target and fine them will make their work less safe and let Uber and Deliveroo off the hook.
Drivers are concerned that the NSW government intends to use police to target them and make their work less safe.
At a protest outside the NSW parliament on June 16, riders called for the proposals to be dumped and for laws to be enacted which address the real cause of the risks to safety — the lack of regulation of their work rights.
The riders held placards which read: “Gladys, No more silence. We need rights”; “I support Rights4Riders”; and “Fighting for our rights in the on-demand economy”.
Transport Workers Union (TWU) assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh said the government had promised action over the deaths of five delivery riders over the past year but that “a task force had found that the fault was on the drivers themselves, absolving the companies of responsibility”.
He said blaming the “most vulnerable workers for this safety crisis” was wrong. “The real problem is with the tech giants who run the food delivery industry,” adding, “we don't need more police harassment of riders but, rather, minimum conditions, better rates of pay and safety on the job.
On June 5, Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Minister for Transport and Roads Kevin Anderson announced that new laws would include a “new penalty system” to crack down on “repeated unsafe practices”. The proposals include food delivery riders being given police-issue identification numbers.
The TWU and riders withdrew from a taskforce into rider safety in April because of the government’s silence on riders’ concerns about exploitation, unrealistic time pressures and the need for minimum pay and protections.
“Riders are today asking the NSW government to call off the hounds,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine told the protest. “Blaming and targeting riders over the symptoms of dangerous exploitation will only exacerbate the pressures they face. Riders are speaking from experience when they say fines will force them to rush, work longer hours and ultimately take more risks.”
Kaine described the statistics as “alarming”. “Three in every four riders are buying unsafe bikes and helmets because they can’t afford the safer alternatives. Plying riders with fines is clearly not going to solve this problem, but will certainly make it a lot worse.”