On-line meals supply deaths immediate requires higher employee’s compensation for gig economic system employees

Four-year-old Azka is getting used to a new phrase in his vocabulary: “My father has died.” It’s an enormous five words a little boy has to carry.

Important points:

  • There have been five deaths among drivers delivering food in the past few months
  • As independent contractors, delivery drivers do not have the same rights as employees
  • The deaths underscored a union campaign for greater protection of workers in the gig economy

In September 2020, Azka’s father, 36-year-old Dede Fredy, was hit by a car in Sydney’s Marrickville while working as a food delivery rider for Uber Eats.

He was the first of five drivers in various companies to die in action on a national level over the coming months. He re-examined the multi-million dollar online grocery shipping industry that relies heavily on low-paid overseas workers.

When she heard that her husband had died, the first thought of Mr. Fredy’s widow, Nyoman Sunarti, was how to explain to her son Azka: “How would I answer him?”

Ms. Sunarti spoke for the first time at 7:30 a.m. from her parents’ village house in northwest Bali, announcing that Uber had not contacted her in the five months since her husband’s death.

“Uber didn’t contact me at all. Just the insurance company to provide them with my husband’s documents,” she said through a translator.

My husband stopped breathing. I’ve seen it ‘

Ms. Sunarti first heard of her husband’s collision in Marrickville from a friend in Australia who passed her a message on September 24.

“He was still alive but in critical condition in the hospital intensive care unit,” she said.

“I couldn’t sleep while he was in intensive care. I kept praying for a miracle from God to give him a speedy recovery. But God had a different plan.”

Dede Fredy (left) was hit by a car in Sydney’s Marrickville while working as a grocery delivery driver for Uber Eats. (Delivered)

Doctors said her husband suffered irreparable brain damage.

Ms. Sunarti was unable to fly to Sydney and watched Mr. Fredy’s life support shut down from Bali.

“We had a video call on September 27 to see them turn off his respirator. All of our family members were also involved in the video call,” she said.

“They took off his respirator at 6:00 pm and my husband stopped breathing. I saw it. I really hoped he could breathe again, but the doctors said there was no chance.

“I get sad when I think about how I told my husband everything.

“Now I have no one to talk to.”

Do you know more about this story? Contact Jason Om at [email protected]

Dream of a better future

Dede Fredy left Indonesia in 2019 hoping to make a better living in Australia by using the money from his delivery work for his family.

Both parents worked in restaurants and hotels, but buying a house in Bali wasn’t enough for their dream, so Mr. Fredy went to Sydney to find work.

“It was for Azka’s future,” said Ms. Sunarti.

“We made a difficult decision because we’ve been together for four years, but we still couldn’t afford to pay for our son’s future.”

An Asian man lying down next to his young son who is drinking from a bottle.  Both look into the camera. Dede Fredy was described by his widow as a kind man and a good father.

Last year Ms. Sunarti lost her job because of the pandemic and moved in with her parents who work in the green rice fields.

In the meantime, Mr. Fredy sent back some of his Uber Eats earnings – he gave about $ 175 a week for his wife and son while he ate in one of Australia’s most expensive cities.

“My late husband was a kind man,” said Ms. Sunarti.

“He loved our son and was devoted to his family. He was a good father.

An Asian man is sitting on a small stool next to his young son who has his spoon in his father's bowl. Dede Fredy came to Australia in 2019 hoping to make a living for his son. (Delivered)

“When I had to work and he was at home, he was the one taking care of Azka. He also helped me with my housework.

“When he was with his friends, he was a humorous man. He was kind to them too. All of his friends liked him. When they heard about this accident, they were all shocked, they couldn’t believe it.”

“They die without these companies blinking.”

A driver wearing a black helmet and teal jacket stands in front of a fast food outlet window. Delivery drivers are independent contractual partners and therefore have fewer rights than employees. (Supplied: @ Abuzar / Instagram)

The five deaths have put pressure on food suppliers and federal and New South Wales governments have expressed concerns about safety at work in the sector.

Delivery driver deaths in 2020

  • Dede Fredy, September 27, Sydney (Uber)
  • Xiaojun Chen, September 30, Sydney (hungry panda)
  • Chow Khai Shien, October 24th, Melbourne (DoorDash)
  • Bijoy Paul, Nov 21, Sydney (Uber)
  • I Wong, November 23, Sydney (Uber)

Delivery drivers are independent contractors and, compared to employees, have fewer rights such as minimum wages, old-age pensions and paid vacation.

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) argues that the system is designed to exploit workers and allow companies like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Menulog, Hungry Panda and DoorDash to shed responsibility for their drivers.

“They die without these companies blinking,” said Michael Kaine, national secretary of the TWU.

“It’s only a small win for them.”

Requests a change in the contractor status

In NSW, independent contractors are not eligible for the government employee compensation scheme for death and injury in the workplace.

Some companies, like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Menulog, cover contractors with a private insurance policy, but the union says the payout is significantly less than that of the state system.

NSW’s state insurer, icare, said it had “proactively filed claims for four grocery delivery drivers killed in NSW and is examining entitlement to employee compensation.”

Uber declined to be interviewed but said in a statement that its insurance policy offered adequate protection and urged all companies to put in place mandatory insurance policies.

Advert for Uber Eats on a motorcycleUber Eats Calls for Compulsory Insurance Policies Companywide (AAP: Joel Carrett)

“Our hearts go out to family and friends who have been affected by recent devastating events,” said Uber.

“Everyone, regardless of whether they are an employee or a contractor, should be insured if they are involved in an accident at work.”

Uber said it couldn’t comment on specific cases.

The TWU is now hoping to use Mr Fredy’s case and the death of another Uber Eats driver, 27-year-old Bijoy Paul from Bangladesh, as part of a test case in the court system, arguing that they should be treated as employees and theirs Families should have equal access to compensation under the state system.

A man in a striped red t-shirt and black pants carrying a backpack is standing in a garden with the UTS building behind him.Bijoy Paul, 27, was hit by a car in Rockdale, a suburb of Sydney, in November 2020. He should graduate from college this year. (Delivered)

Bijoy Paul’s sister, Shimu, said at 7:30 a.m. she wanted delivery drivers to be treated equally.

“If my brother worked in the McDonald’s kitchen and died on the job, my family would be entitled to workers’ compensation,” she said.

“But my brother delivered the McDonald’s food and didn’t cook it.”

Mr Paul was hit by a car in Sydney’s Rockdale last November while studying engineering. He would have graduated this year.

“He had a promising career ahead of him and he didn’t deserve to die at all – so I think people should know the story of Bijoy,” said Ms. Paul.

“It’s a massive loss to my parents. We’re fighting right now. He wasn’t just my brother, he was my best friend.”

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