Family of killed UberEats rider files workers’ comp claim, in what could be a landmark test case for the gig economy

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Source: Unsplash/ Kai Pilger.

The family of Dede Fredy, an UberEats rider killed in Sydney in November, is filing a workers’ compensation claim over his death, in a case that could set a new precedent for businesses that rely on the gig economy.

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has filed a case against Uber and New South Wales workers’ compensation insurer iCare, on behalf of Fredy’s wife Nyoman Sunarti and their four-year-old son.

It seeks full compensation under the death benefits provision of NSW workers’ comp legislation, including a lump sum of $834,200, plus funeral expenses and a weekly payment of $150 for Fredy’s son until he is at least 16.

The claim is the first of its kind brought against a gig economy company, a statement from the TWU says. If the claim is rejected, the union intends to pursue it in a test case at the Workers’ Compensation Commission.

It follows a string of delivery driver deaths in Australia over the past few months.

Malaysian rider Chow Khai Shien died while delivering for DoorDash in October.

Xiaojun Chen, who was from China, and Fredy, were killed in separate accidents just two weeks earlier.

Bijoy Paul, a 27-year-old from Bangladesh, was killed in a road accident in November while delivering for UberEats.

A fifth man, who has not been named, was killed after being hit by a truck in late-November.

This prompted the NSW government to launch a taskforce to investigate the deaths and “make findings for any immediate improvements or compliance activity”.

It also led UberEats to admit the industry needs to be doing more to improve road safety for its riders.

As it stands, Uber provides what the TWU calls “substandard private cover” to riders.

The maximum dependents can receive is a $400,000 lump sum, plus $5,000 for each spouse or dependent, The Guardian reports.

In a statement, TWU national secretary Michael Kaine demanded legislative reform to UberEats and other gig economy delivery platforms to provide full compensation to families.

“They are trashing our labour laws and leaving riders and families literally on the streets,” Kaine said.

“The wife and four-year-old son of Fredy Dede should get full compensation under our laws and they should not be pushed into poverty because of the way Uber structures its business.”

He called on the federal government to hold Uber to account.

“Grieving families of riders should not have to take on multi-national goliaths like Uber but a refusal by the Federal Government to regulate has left them with no choice,” he said.

“Riders are out on our streets day and night slogging for these multi-billion dollar companies. Riders have no right to minimum rates, training or proper protective gear, and when they are injured or killed, it’s up to the companies as to whether they and their families are covered.

“The Australian community expects far better treatment for workers than this,” he said.

A spokesperson for UberEats said safety is “fundamental” to the company.

But, they said it’s the flexible working arrangement on offer that “helps provide opportunities to work, or a path back to work, for many who have previously been shut out of the labour market”.

The spokesperson rejected the idea that Uber riders should be treated as employers under workers’ compensation legislation, saying this is “neither practical or achievable”.

“Uber does not have the same level of control, management or oversight as employers.”

This case also follows revelations that many gig economy riders are earning an average of just $10 per hour after costs.

Almost 90% of workers surveyed said their pay has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 70% said they were struggling to pay for their own food and bills.

The majority, 73%, said they believed they should be engaged as employees, rather than contractors, which would give them access to compulsory loadings and other entitlements.

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