‘Deadly pressure’: Union pushes for inquest into delivery driver deaths

A union is pushing for a spate of delivery driver deaths to be probed by the state coroner, saying “deadly pressure” was being placed on workers.

The Transport Workers’ Union will on Tuesday hold a vigil outside Crown Solicitor’s Office in the Sydney CBD as it protests what it describes as unsafe demands being placed on food delivery drivers.

Four delivery drivers – Dede Fredy, Bijoy Paul, Ik Wong, Xiaojun Chen – were killed on Sydney roads while working over a two-month period in late 2020.

The cluster of fatal accidents prompted the NSW government to introduce strict safety laws for the gig economy including requiring delivery companies such as Uber Eats and Menulog to provide riders with protective equipment.

But the TWU is pushing for coronial inquests into the deaths of the four men along with the fatal road accident which claimed the life of delivery driver Burak Dogan.

The 30-year-old Turkish student was killed when his bike collided with a truck on the afternoon of April 2, 2020, however it was not treated as a workplace accident.

UberEats did not recognise his death as a workplace fatality because he had 25 minutes earlier cancelled a job.

UberEats said that at the time of the accident, he was not making a delivery and had not completed a delivery that day.

It is also not uncommon for drivers to have the app open without accepting jobs or while they are making deliveries via another platform.

However the TWU said his death should be recorded as a workplace accident given he was logged into the app at the time.

It said the drivers did not have access to proper training, insurance or safety equipment because they were classed as independent contractors and not employees.

“NSW Coronial Inquests would shine a spotlight on the deadly pressures on food delivery riders,” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said.

“Industrial pressures remain to this day and any finding that these pressures contributed to the deaths of these riders should ring alarm bells in parliament and inform regulation to prevent worker deaths in the future.

“The families of riders killed continue to grapple with the indescribable loss of their loved one and deserve answers.”

Mr Fredy and Mr Chen died in separate accidents in Sydney in September 2020.

In November that year, Mr Paul, from Bangladesh, died after a collision with a car in Rockdale in southern Sydney and Mr Wong died later that month in a road accident.

The TWU said the coroner had indicated it will consider holding an inquest into the deaths of the four men, however it wanted that expanded to include that of Mr Dogan.

The union said that the gig economy placed pressure on drivers to make as many deliveries as possible in the shortest amount of time.

“Riders have told us the pandemic has only made their jobs more dangerous, and little has been done to clean up the industry,” Mr Kaine said.

“In fact, the NSW state government sided with gig giants to target riders forced to rush rather than standing with them in the fight to end the very exploitation making the industry so deadly in the first place.”

UberEats defended its safety record, saying it had last year rolled out new initiatives including helmet detection to ensure riders were wearing proper safety equipment, as well as providing safety kits.

The company said it also previously had extensive safety measures in place including annual bike safety checks and fatigue management protocols.

Source: The Australian

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