Food delivery riders and advocates have raised concerns that low-paid workers are being fined by police for safety and riding issues while being pressured by companies to work faster.
Multiple food delivery riders have been stopped and fined by police in recent weeks, according to the Transport Workers Union. It said that the delivery companies themselves should be fined as well.
One food delivery rider in Sydney, who spoke to Guardian Australia on the condition of anonymity, said he had been fined in February for riding on the footpath – but had only done so for his safety and because he was being “forced to work faster”.
The rider said he had been warned recently by his delivery company for “not reaching a restaurant in time”.
Michael Kaine, the national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, said low-paid workers were feeling “the full force of the law” while the companies that gave them work “aren’t being fined”.
He told Guardian Australia police should ask riders what companies they work for, and whether they were being pressured to work faster, before fining them.
In November last year, Guardian Australia spoke to multiple workers and bike store operators who said delivery companies such as Uber Eats do not check whether their delivery riders have working bikes – or can even ride a bike – before approving them to work.
The rider who was fined in Sydney said he was stopped by “three or four” undercover police on a busy road while on a delivery.
“I was riding on the footpath, of course with manners and courtesy, and they just held my hand and said ‘Stop, stop, stop’,” he said. “I was pleading with him, saying, ‘Please just give me a warning. [A] $100 [fine] is nothing for you, but it is a lot for me’. I was just trying to save up for a lot of things.
“There is one street that is exiting and entering in different ways. In the morning, it is a really busy time, people are going in and out, there are buses. The cars behind me wanted me to go faster, so I went on the footpath. I was not rushing through when people are working. I have been working in this industry since 2012 on and off.
“It all comes down to the payment … We are subconsciously forced to work faster. Recently I got my second warning for not reaching a restaurant in time.”
Kaine told Guardian Australia that riders were caught in the middle between police and their food delivery companies.
“Riders are getting fined by police for going fast and also getting sacked for not going fast enough with an order,” he said.
“We would urge police stopping riders to ask them which companies they are working for, if they have been given training or proper safety gear and what is causing them to ride on pavements or to speed.”
A spokeswoman for the New South Wales police told Guardian Australia: “NSW police will issue infringements to any cyclist disobeying road rules.”
In November, Andre Silva, the manager of Sydney Ebike Rentals, told Guardian Australia he had seen many deliverers using poorly maintained bikes where the tyres and brakes are “gone”, because the food delivery companies do not check on their workers’ equipment.
Bruna Correa, another deliverer, said the company never checked whether she had a working bike, whether her bike was in good condition, or if she could properly ride one.
Earlier this year, a manager at food delivery company Hungry Panda told a NSW parliamentary inquiry that she did not know they had a legal obligation to report the death of one of their riders to the workplace regulator.