Uber Eats rider died riding e-bike not approved for use in NSW, company confirms

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Uber Eats rider died riding e-bike not approved for use in NSW, company confirms

April 19, 2021 Syndicated 0

The general manager of Uber Eats in Australia has confirmed that a rider who died while working for the company last year was using an unauthorised e-bike, and another was using an unapproved helmet.

Uber also said riders had sustained approximately 40 “serious notifiable injuries” in New South Wales since December 2020, and rejected the lead of the Australian company Menulog, which said it would make all its riders employees.

A NSW parliamentary committee into the gig economy grilled Uber representatives on Monday, asking them about three Uber Eats riders who died in the state last year within weeks of each other.

In total five food delivery riders died in the space of two months last year, with four in NSW.

The committee chair, Labor MP Daniel Mookhey, said SafeWork NSW had shown parliament an improvement notice given to Uber that said one of those riders had used an e-bike that was not approved for use in the state. Another who died was using a helmet that was not approved for NSW, according to SafeWork.

“The deceased had not been provided with adequate information, instruction and training on the risks related to operating a motorcycle for commercial purposes on roadways, and the requirement to wear a compliant helmet,” one SafeWork notice said.

“A fatality on 23.11.20 … involved the use of an e-bike that appeared to not be approved for use on any road or road-related area in NSW,” said another.

Mookhey also told the committee that SafeWork NSW data showed there had been 74 reports of “serious notifiable injuries” among Uber Eats workers between 1 January 2020 and 7 December 2020.

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He asked Matthew Denman, the general manager for Uber Eats in Australia and New Zealand, whether this rate of injuries had continued after 7 December 2020, which he said equated to approximately 40 notifications since.

Denman told the committee that the rate of incidents had not risen since December, and was approximately the same.

The Uber Eats general manager also said Menulog’s decision to trial a minimum wage and employee rights for their food deliverers was “not the right path forward”.

Denman told the parliament that a “necessary outcome” of a minimum wage or employee rights would mean workers had to work set hours.

“The reason we don’t think it’s the right path forward [is] every time we ask drivers and delivery partners what they like about Uber, they say flexibility, the ability to come online any time they want, when they want.

“It would be necessary for platforms such as ours to require that driver and delivery partners only work on our platform, and that they work set shifts and they accept a certain number of trips, to pay that minimum wage. That would be a necessary outcome.”

He was also asked whether the company checked riders’ equipment in light of the findings about the unauthorised e-bike and helmet.

“It depends on the mode of transport,” he said. “The issue with something like a bicycle, is naturally we could check … require someone to attend a location with a bike. Once they had done that, we actually have no way of knowing what bicycle someone is on.

“We complete millions of trips across our platform every single week. Practically, it is not possible for us to know what bike exactly everyone is on for every single trip.”

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Mookhey told Guardian Australia the revelation that injury rates remained the same into 2021 was “deeply worrying”.

“It makes it clear it’s not a seasonal problem, it’s a permanent problem,” he said. “It is deeply worrying that the market leader is reporting so many incidents per month.

“Unless action is taken, this will be a permanent feature of the industry.”

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