DoorDash, Uber Execs grilled on driver deaths

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The number of delivery driver deaths in Australia is being probed at a senate inquiry.

A DoorDash executive has faced tough questions around driver deaths and safety during a senate inquiry examining the laws around the sector.

Representatives from Uber, MenuLog and DoorDash fronted the aenate inquiry into the Closing Loopholes Bill currently before parliament, with senators from the major parties and crossbench questioning them on their practices and opinions on the government’s proposed changes to the sector.

DoorDash regional manager Rebecca Burrows opened her statement by acknowledging the death of a delivery driver overnight, adding that her platform was looking into whether the driver was working for them at the time of the death.

Rebecca Burrows faced an intense line of questions around worker deaths.
DoorDash regional manager Rebecca Burrows faced an intense line of questions around worker deaths.

Her acknowledgment of the death opened a line of questioning over the safety of workers on DoorDash and other delivery platforms by committee chair Tony Sheldon and Senator Barbara Pocock.

Senator Sheldon pressed Ms Burrows on why the death of a 27-year-old DoorDash worker who was killed in a car crash on September 5, 2020, in the Melbourne suburb of Point Cook was not reported until a year later.

The executive was unable to provide details around the death nor why it took the platform a year to report tit.

“This is a death of a person working for you, as you say, a ‘dasher’, which does imply rushing, cutting corners. I’m not suggesting you’re saying that to me but the language does,” he said.

“You can‘t tell me what the reason was for the delay of the person that was killed whilst working for you over one year nor the rough date?”

Ms Burrows repeatedly said she would come back to the inquiry with details of the death and why the delay occurred, which Senator Sheldon described as “extremely disappointing”.

Fifteen food delivery drivers have been killed on the job in Australia. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

“I‘m looking forward to you going a long way of proving the ethics of your company and making sure that we have a safe, viable and fair industry,” he said.

Ms Burrows revealed the worker’s death in a 2021 NSW parliamentary inquiry, saying that the death was not properly reported to DoorDash, as the driver was not logged into the platform when the accident happened.

“We have brought that into question as he had been on the platform earlier in the evening and had completed a delivery for DoorDash,” she told the past inquiry.

The DoorDash executive was peppered with questions relating to safety by Senator Pocock, who argued there was a “serious number” of driver deaths in Australia.

Ms Burrows said her company’s platform had built in measures to make drivers safer, such as overstating delivery times to customers, equipment checks and giving workers the chance to contact the business if they feel threatened.

“I would be very upset if the conditions that we were placing were creating a safety hazard, more so we worked very hard to put in place mechanisms through our product to improve the safety and we’re continually doing that,” she said.

Uber, Menulog and Doordash  appear before the senate inquiry into the government's industrial relations legislation.
Senator Barbara Pocock said a ‘serious number’ of delivery driver deaths that have occurred on Australian roads. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Senator Pocock then asked whether the companies saw “no relationship” between death and injury and DoorDash’s business model and the time pressure put on workers.

“It sounds like you‘re saying you’ve got it under control with the measures you’re taking and yet we have this very high and concerning level of health and safety problems in the sector,” Ms Pocock said.

Ms Burrows said any leader in the transport sector faced a “moral issue” around safety and companies should be looking to make the workplace as safe as possible.

“Any workplace injury or death is something that any leader should continually look to prevent and remove hazards,” she said.

“Any job that has people on the road, whether it’s our industry or another industry, with workers on the roads has hazards.

Gig economy workers have called for the Closing Loopholes Bill to pass to ensure they will recieve the national minimum wage . Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jenny Evans

“And so we should do everything we can and take every learning we can from every incident or any near miss.”

Several gig economy workers, including ride share drivers and food delivery riders, gave evidence to the inquiry about their working conditions and safety, with one man saying he hasn’t slept for more than four hours a night in two years due to the demands of his job.

“I work 40 to 60 hours every week and sometimes even 80 hours to make the basic survival payments to pay my bills,” Abdollah Askari told the senators.

Mr Askcari contradicted ride share executives claims that gig economy workers were able to benefit from flexibility around working hours.

“It is flexible to sign in and sign out, but the rest is not,” he said.

“I do not have any flexibility in terms of accepting orders, I do not have any flexibility in terms of where I want to go and where I do not want to go -- if I try to not to take any order they tell me they’ll deactivate my account.”