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Food delivery riders say their hourly rates of pay are being cut during the pandemic, even as demand rises, meaning that food delivery companies like UberEats and Deliveroo are profiting off “both sides” of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Three food delivery riders were killed in the space of a month in October, in three separate road collisions in Sydney and Melbourne.
On Monday, four current delivery riders and rideshare drivers testified before a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry about their experiences of being injured or financially stressed on the job.
Esteban Salazar, a student from Columbia, told the inquiry that he had worked for UberEats since April. On 20 September, Salazar was delivering food in heavy rain in Sydney’s Surry Hills when he slipped and was struck by a light rail tram.
“The tram collided with the right side of my body,” he said. “And since the accident I have been experiencing pain in my back and my knees.
“UberEats covered me for a time off work for 30 days, through their insurance [with] Chubb. Since then I have been without any income and I also have to attend some medical expenses on my own … They don’t cover you with any expenses for the medical treatment.”
Diego Franco and Steve Khouw, two fellow deliverers, said the widespread job losses during the pandemic had pushed more people to food delivering in the gig economy, where they are classed as independent contractors, rather than employees.
“It is what they want,” Franco said. “They have high demand for the orders because customers are just at home, and they have many people willing to work on these jobs because they have no other options.”
Franco said the delivery companies used that to lower the pay rates for their workers, even as delivery demand increased due to the pandemic.
“They were paying, let’s say, $10 for two trips for 2km, they are paying now $8, or even less than that,” Franco said.
He said this meant food delivery companies were “earning on both sides” of the equation.
“During this pandemic crisis, there was an increase in demand. And they know there should be more drivers, as people lost their jobs in other industries, like waiters.
“What do they do? They make more money, and they pay less for us, because there are too many people willing to work. They are earning on both sides.”
When asked, he said none of the companies ever discussed or warned him about the reduction in the rate of pay.
“It is unilateral,” Khouw added. “They can change the rate of pay any time they want … We have no choice, we either have to accept it or get taken off the app.”
Salazar said the majority of the food delivery workforce were either international students or recent migrants with English as a second language.
“Most of us do not have very good English skills, which is very difficult for us to know all the policies related to our contracts.
“It was very difficult for me for example, when I had the accident, I had to go to the doctor. And I didn’t know that I wasn’t covered by work compensation, it was very harsh to realise that I wasn’t covered by workers’ compensation, like any other worker in this country.”
Mark Morey, the secretary of Unions NSW, told the inquiry: “Having English as your first language is a major impediment to getting through the workers compensation system, let alone your second language.”
Malcolm Mackenzie, a former IT worker who now drives for a rideshare company, said that he believed the contracts were “unfair”.
“Flexibility is a myth,” he said. “I believe drivers are controlled … and there is less and less competition.”
Mackenzie told the inquiry that workers had to drive during peak hours to earn bonus points if they wanted to unlock the ability to see where potential passengers wanted to go.
“During peaks there are a five-times multiplier bonus. And these bonuses drive points towards your benefits scheme. This benefits scheme gives you a right to see what the job is … you see where the rider wants to be picked up and you see where the rider wants to go.”
He said he believed this should be standard for riders, who should not have to “operate blind”.
“The tolerance to rejecting a job, cancelling a job, letting a job pass through is small. It is easy to lose it [the bonuses]. So you are being performance managed. It is a benefit you should have, without a condition placed on it. It is necessary to do your work.”
Thomas Costa, the assistant secretary to Unions NSW, said the category of independent contractor being used today was outdated.
“The community, when we adopted these standards of independent contractor and employee, had not seen the iPhone,” he said.
“The reality is that they are workers. And the community standard that is out there is that workers deserve certain entitlements and conditions.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Australian food delivery workers had pay cut amid increased pandemic demand | Business