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Food delivery platforms emphasise flexibility as regulation looms

Food delivery platforms including Deliveroo and Foodora are emphasising the flexibility that contract work affords their riders, as parliament considers a Bill to extend workplace protections and benefits to workers in the ‘gig economy’.

Greens Melbourne MP Adam Bandt on Monday introduced new legislation to amend the Fair Work Act to ensure contract workers receive a minimum wage, leave and superannuation contributions, as employees are entitled to.

Targeting the growing ranks of rideshare drivers, food delivery riders and handymen working in Australia’s gig economy, the Making Australia More Equal Bill comes a few days after riders protested unfair wages at the Fair Work Commission’s annual review of award wages.

National secretary of the Transport Workers Union told AAP reporters last Wednesday that delivery companies label riders as independent contractors, despite the fact that they “wear the company uniforms [and] have set rosters and shifts”.

But Foodora’s head of digital and public relations, Lizzy Kaye, said riders have the flexibility to accept or reject delivery orders and delegate orders to other riders or other subcontractors, if they so choose.

“Foodora’s riders also have the flexibility of choosing their own mode of transport,” she told Internet Retailing.

Kaye said Foodora riders are paid per delivery and earn $20 per hour on average. They can also work for other delivery providers, while working for Foodora, a scenario that typically would not fly in a traditional employment contract.

“The mutually beneficial arrangement is only possible if it operates outside the traditional employment relationship, which does not properly characterise and therefore cannot regulate the engagement of Foodora’s riders,” Kaye said.

Deliveroo’s country manager, Levi Aron, said people choose to work in the gig economy because of the flexibility it allows.

“Across Australia, people are choosing work that allows them to earn well while providing the freedom to choose when, where and whether to work,” he told Internet Retailing.

The company recently started providing all riders with free insurance to protect them and their earnings if they’re involved in an accident.

More than 3,800 riders work for Deliveroo in Australia, delivering orders in 10 cities. Foodora engages over 1,000 riders as independent contractors in Australia and partners with over 2,500 restaurants.

Analysts at IBISWorld last year estimated that food delivery platforms drove a 2 per cent revenue increase in Australia’s restaurant industry in 2017-18. They have played a critical role in bringing e-commerce functionality to a still mostly bricks-and-mortar business.

Menulog, which recently started delivery orders, declined to comment for this story. UberEats had not reply to questions at the time of publication.

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