A former food delivery rider who was allegedly sacked by food delivery company Easi for raising concerns about rider safety has had his case taken to the Fair Work Commission (FWU).
The case, initiated by the Transport Workers' Union (TWU), alleges the rider Lawrence Du was called a "fraud" and let go by Easi management after he encouraged other riders to share concerns about safety and working conditions.
"The company pays all its delivery workers below minimum wage, provides no safety for workers, bullies people, and terminates anyone who raises an issue. When I tried to speak to other workers and the TWU about these issues -- Easi called me a scammer and I was terminated straight away," Lawrence Du claimed.
Easi is an Australian food delivery company targeted at Chinese customers. The company was set up in Melbourne in 2015 but has since expanded to the rest of Australia and Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, the US, and the UK.
According to a TWU survey of Easi riders and drivers, one in three respondents said they have been injured on the job and none received financial support or compensation from the company.
The case is seeking compensation for the alleged unfair dismissal and a pathway for workers to join a union.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said Lawrence's case was another example of the federal government needing to regulate the gig economy.
"When a company can unilaterally sack a worker because they are standing up for safety, you know there's something fundamentally wrong with our industrial laws," Kaine said.
"Delivery riders need an independent body to create and enforce minimum workplace pay and safety standards and hold companies like Easi to account for doing the wrong thing".
Along with the Easi proceedings, the TWU is currently funding a separate lawsuit for a Deliveroo food delivery rider on similar grounds. For the Deliveroo matter, the FWC concluded the former Deliveroo food delivery worker had an employee-employer relationship with the company and was unfairly dismissed. Deliveroo appealed that decision, with the matter now set for Federal Court.
Other cases that TWU has brought against food delivery services in recent years include one against Uber, which the FWC found in favour of Uber. In another matter, the union won an unfair dismissal case on behalf of former Foodora rider, Josh Klooger, which led to the company backpaying nearly AU$3 million to around 1,700 delivery riders for underpaying wages and failing to pay superannuation.
Over the past year, state governments around Australia have started contemplating gig economy laws, with Victoria in May allocating AU$5 million, as part of its 2021-22 Budget, to create new standards aimed at providing more protection for gig economy workers.
In New South Wales, the state government is currently seeking consultation on new laws aimed at improving the safety of gig economy and food delivery workers, while also cracking down on unsafe practices by riders. It has also been the investigating whether changes are needed within the gig economy after a series of food delivery rider fatalities occurred over a three-month period.
At the federal level, the current government has not tabled any Bills focused on changing gig economy practices. Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese, meanwhile, has criticised the current government's policies and outlined plans that would see the country's industrial relations policy overhauled so that gig economy workers are recognised as employees if Labor were to win the next election.