A 22-year-old finance student from India, Akshay Deepak Doultani, tragically lost his life in a fatal collision while working as an UberEats rider in Sydney’s north-west last weekend. The incident occurred on Saturday, 22nd July, in Epping when his scooter collided with an SUV.
Despite prompt medical attention from paramedics, Doultani succumbed to his injuries at the Royal North Shore Hospital. The identity of the rider was revealed by Labor Senator Tony Sheldon during a parliamentary statement on Monday, with the permission of the grieving family.
Akshay Doultani had been pursuing a master’s degree in finance at Macquarie University, having received a scholarship that enabled him to study in Australia. Senator Sheldon highlighted Doultani’s aspirations to provide his family in India with a brighter future through his studies and work in Australia.
In the wake of this tragic incident, Sheldon also shed light on the plight faced by food delivery riders in the gig economy. He mentioned that since 2017, 12 food delivery riders have lost their lives, though the actual numbers could be higher due to underreporting within the industry.
Senator Sheldon emphasised the lack of basic employment rights for gig workers like Doultani, such as minimum wage and workers’ compensation, leaving them in a vulnerable position where they often have to push themselves to the limit just to make ends meet.
Currently, the Australian government is deliberating on potential reforms to enhance protections for gig workers within the industry. These reforms aim to establish minimum pay and working conditions while also granting the Fair Work Commission the authority to regulate workers categorised as “employee-like.”
However, the proposed changes have encountered resistance from the business lobby and gig economy companies, who contend that implementing these reforms would escalate costs and consumer prices, ultimately leading to job losses.
Senator Tony Sheldon has been vocal in his support for the reforms, dismissing the notion of true flexibility in the current arrangements for gig workers as a mere “fiction.” He pointed to the alarming statistic of 12 fatalities among food delivery riders since 2017, stating that these tragedies exemplify the system’s failure to safeguard workers’ well-being.
Sheldon emphasised the necessity for Akshay and other gig workers to have a safety net, suggesting that having such minimum protections in place could have potentially saved the lives of those 12 individuals who tragically lost their lives while working in the gig economy.
Following the tragic incident involving the death of an UberEats rider in Sydney, the company expressed deep sorrow. An UberEats spokesperson conveyed their condolences, stating that they are in touch with the family and loved ones of the deceased, providing the necessary support during this difficult time.
Uber Eats emphasised its commitment to the safety of its delivery personnel and pointed out the existence of policies and features designed to enhance their safety while on the road. In Australia, Uber Eats delivery workers are covered by a dedicated support package, inclusive of insurance coverage in case of accidents or injuries during deliveries.
The authorities are currently investigating the incident, with both the police and the state’s work safety watchdog, Safework, involved in the process. Uber Eats has offered its assistance to the police and is working to expedite the insurance process for the worker’s family.
In response to this tragedy, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) emphasised the urgency of implementing planned reforms for gig workers. Michael Kaine, the TWU national secretary, highlighted that gig economy workers are deprived of fundamental rights, such as minimum wage, sick leave, workers’ compensation, and protection against unfair terminations.
Expressing their heartfelt condolences, Kaine conveyed the union’s solidarity with Akshay’s family in both Australia and India during this devastating time. The TWU firmly believes that all workers, whether fully employed in the gig economy or engaged in food delivery to support their studies and aspirations like Akshay, deserve fair rights and safe working conditions at a minimum standard.