Chinese food delivery service accused of exploiting workers in Australia

Easi

Kiet came to Australia to study English, but it is very likely to run from one of the bustling restaurants in Sydney's Chinatown to another delivery.

Working as a food messenger is a flexible job for the Malaysian student, but it can hardly be described as rewarding: long wait times between deliveries with a base salary that starts at $ 6 per order means that a full day of work can generate less of $ 150 – below the minimum wage.

"Sometimes I have to wait an hour or two," he tells SBS News, adding that on other occasions he was forced to take dangerous risks when riding a bicycle on the busiest roads.

"I do not have any insurance, so if something happens, I can not make a claim, this job is really dangerous."

An Easi delivery bicycle in Sydney's Chinatown.

SBS

Kiet delivers orders through Sydney Delivery, one of five city-based food delivery applications for companies that operate under the Australian Delivery United Group umbrella company, which is also known as EASI.

With 200,000 application downloads, EASI motorcyclists with distinctive yellow uniforms, known as "Chinese UberEATS" on online forums, are increasingly common in Australia's slums along with the big players UberEATS and Deliveroo.

But critics of the concert economy say that the controversial practices of online food delivery giants, which have attracted protests from workers, media attention and demands, are being used by small or niche operators that are still "Under the radar".

"Due to the size of some of the smaller operators, they are being fought with the same type of exploitation, but unlike the larger ones, they are not being discovered," said the national secretary of the Transport Workers' Union (TWU). , Tony Sheldon.

Riders for food delivery platforms are usually hired as independent contractors, a practice that has been subject to scrutiny and criticism, as it means that they have no right to employees, such as awarding salaries, retirement and severance pay. Workers.

Kiet is a delivery driver for Easi.

Kiet is a delivery driver for Easi.

SBS

In June, the Fair Work Ombudsman filed a legal action against Foodora, based in Berlin, accusing the company of fraudulent hiring, which resulted in the underpayment of workers.

The ACCC has launched a separate investigation into the conduct and terms of the UberEATS contract.

The ombudsman this month abandoned his case against Foodora after the company entered the voluntary administration.

Despite Foodora's decision to withdraw from the Australian market, the TWU is still pursuing Foodora separately for the unfair dismissal of a worker fired in March.

"Foodora, who leaves the country because they are required to render accounts, carried out a theft of wages in this country and owes substantial sums of taxes to our government," Sheldon said.

"Now the smaller but quite important companies that operate in our main cities" are carrying out similar practices, he said.

Chinese tourist Lee is a messenger from UberEATS and from the Victorian application of EASI Melbourne Delivery to earn more money.

Working full time can generate up to $ 800 per week, an amount that barely exceeds the minimum wage and is often below.

Her earnings from her first 24 orders are used to cover the weekly rental of a Melbourne Delivery motorized bicycle, a $ 180 fee she described as "too expensive".

But "compared to Chinese restaurants, the salary is not that bad," he tells SBS News.

Lee, who gets his earnings directly from Melbourne Delivery customers in cash and UberEATS by bank transfer, admits he has no idea of ​​his tax obligations.

Lee said his main concern is road safety. Unlike UberEATS, Melbourne Delivery does not offer insurance for passengers.

"Sometimes I almost get hit by a car," he said. "This happens quite often, because Australians drive very fast.

He said he would like to see companies do more to address security, describing another incident in which he was trapped on the staircase of an apartment without mobile reception and therefore there is no way to ask for help.

In a statement, the Australian Delivery United Group rejected any suggestion of mistreatment of workers, saying that the riders were subcontractors instead of employees, and therefore were responsible for their own tax and insurance obligations.

As passengers were free to work on their own schedule and in a wide range of companies, "their ability to generate income is not limited to providing their service and directly to the number of hours they work."

The spokesman said the company was not aware of the costs of renting bicycles, which was optional, as this was handled by its contractor.

"The contractor has strict company policies and training (both in class and on the road) for subcontractors before hiring them to provide services for our company," he said.

UberEATS said that all passengers were provided with safety information when they registered, and that there were plans to expand the way this was presented within the application.

"The flexible work opportunities you can adapt to your life have been traditionally hard to find, and what our partners tell us is that the flexibility offered by the Uber application – you can start and close when you want – is what makes the difference for them, "she said.