Deliveroo riders elect first health and safety representatives in ‘milestone’ for gig economy

The TWU has welcomed the ‘milestone’ win for workers

Deliveroo riders elect first health and safety representatives in ‘milestone’ for gig economy

Health and safety representatives have been elected for the first time at one of Australia’s major gig economy employers.

Seven Deliveroo riders have been nominated as reps by their co-workers, giving them powers to ensure the company takes action on health and safety matters.

While representatives are commonplace among other industries, their election is a first for the gig economy and follows a string of deaths among delivery riders last year.

The reps will be able to issue emergency stop work directions, improvement notices over breaches and force the company to consult on workplace safety matters.

Michael Kaine, national secretary for the Transport Workers Union, described the election of H&S reps as a “milestone” win for gig economy employees.

“This is just the first step to making this job safe,” he said. “A major component is addressing the risks associated with the pressure riders are under to speed and work long hours.

“To do this we need regulation in place to ensure riders have appropriate minimum rates, the right to challenge an arbitrary sacking if they are a few minutes late with a delivery, the right to training, insurance and protective gear.

“Riders across Australia need these rights which is why we are calling on the Federal Government to regulate and protect delivery riders.”

Read more: Workers compensation legal test on the horizon for gig economy employers

The TWU, on behalf of its members, has continually pushed for Deliveroo and other gig economy employers to abide by health and safety regulation.

Deliveroo set up Australia’s first national safety panel to advise on the concerns of riders in 2019, with riders chosen for the positions, and has implemented measures off the back of the initiative.

But the TWU argued representatives must be democratically elected by their co-workers in order to comply with H&S laws.

A spokesperson for Deliveroo told HRD that safety continues to be paramount to the company.

“We were the first to establish a national rider safety panel, giving riders a voice within the company to raise safety issues. Deliveroo proactively works with our riders to identify areas of improvement and address any safety issues they may have,” they said.

“We received feedback from our riders in Sydney that they would like to set up a system of rider safety representatives.

“We took action as it is important to us that we do the right thing by our riders. We are always determined to listen and respond to riders, in particular on safety matters. Riders are at the heart of our company and always will be.

“It is unfortunate that the TWU has delayed this process. We now look forward to working closely with the elected representatives to take feedback and resolve any concerns.”

Read more: Is the gig economy 'exploitative'?

It comes as the TWU prepares for a landmark legal case over the right to workers compensation for gig employees.

Late last year the union lodged a claim against Uber and iCare on behalf of the wife and son of an Uber Eats rider who was killed in September.

Under current NSW law, delivery drivers and riders are considered independent contractors, not employees, and therefore are not entitled to statutory compensation.

If the claim fails, the TWU says it will use it as a test case at the Workers Compensation Commission, which could set a precedent for gig economy workers.

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