Unions demand ‘rights for riders’

Rights for riders protest in Sydney on August 29. Photo: Peter Boyle

“Wage theft is rife in the food delivery industry,” Transport Workers Union (TWU) spokesperson Tony Sheldon told a rally of delivery riders and unionists on August 29 organised by the union and On-Demand Workers Australia.

The action demanded that the federal government puts in place a safety net to ensure riders from all companies are guaranteed minimum wage and entitlements.

Sheldon said he knew of one case in which a Foodora worker was owed $20,000 in back pay and entitlements. Foodora has now skipped the country to avoid legal battles, leaving its riders with little notice that they would be out of a job and with no severance pay.

“The multinational company Foodora [now in receivership in Australia] is leaving the country with a suitcase full of cash”, Sheldon said.

The TWU is calling on the Coalition government to set up a fund to ensure all Foodora and other food delivery workers receive their wages and entitlements.

“The government needs to change the rules to ensure all workers get what they are owed”, Sheldon said.

Deliveroo is bringing in a new system that reduces the income for most riders taking part in the trial.

A food delivery rider and overseas student, Fernando, told the rally that over the 18 months he has been in the industry “wages have gone down and down”.

“The company has just changed the contract, and we have no choice. With more riders than ever on the street, they can offer lower wages than before.” He called for legal protections.

Thomas Costa, UnionsNSW assistant secretary, described the food delivery service as “a cowboy industry”. Riders work in difficult and dangerous conditions with no leave, sick leave or superannuation rights. The gig economy cannot be trusted to self-regulate. The government must take responsibility to protect the rights of all workers.

Labor Senator Kristina Kenneally said that the so-called “new generation” Coalition government “is the same as the old one”. “The government has watched as young workers are more and more exploited. It is high time they received proper pay for proper work and dignity”.

The unionists marched to NSW Parliament and on to The Domain, chanting “Uber Eats, wage cheats”; “Deliveroo, deliver our rights”; “Exploitation, off the streets”; and “We are union, we will fight”.

For more information contact the TWU or On-Demand Workers.