A food delivery driver who was allegedly sacked by Chinese food delivery company Easi after trying to raise concerns about pay and worker safety, has had his case taken to the Fair Work Commission by the Transport Workers’ Union.
According to the Fair Work claim, Lawrence Du, 35, started working for Easi in Brisbane in early June, but was sacked in early August, he claims after making inquiries with other workers about work safety, wages and other conditions.
Du said when he added friends to the Chinese communications platform Easi uses to communicate with drivers, he was called a “fraud” and he said Easi said messages sent to others about safety were “a scam”.
“When I tried to talk to people about the pay and conditions at Easi, and I added some friends on their communication platform, I was told ‘We don’t feel like continuing the relationship any more with you’, and they just terminated me without a notice.”
A spokesperson for Easi said the company could not comment.
“We have not been made aware of any case regarding our company with the Fair Work Commission and as such, are unable to provide any further comment at this time,” the spokesperson said.
Easi’s food delivery targets Chinese customers in Australia. The company was set up in Melbourne in 2015 but has since expanded to other cities across Australia and around the world, with over 20,000 drivers in Australia, and an estimated value of $500m.
In May, the Fair Work Commission ruled a delivery rider for Deliveroo who was sacked after three years was an employee of Deliveroo rather than a contractor due to the level of control Deliveroo had over him. Deliveroo is appealing against the decision.
The TWU will be making a similar argument with Easi. It says workers must pay $400 up front, work to rosters which include lunch and dinner breaks, and drivers can be terminated for working for other companies, meaning their relationship with Easi is more like an employee than a contractor.
At present, Easi retains delivery drivers as contractors and they are paid per delivery. Du said this meant in a place like Brisbane with not enough orders, workers could be paid below the minimum hourly wage to which they would be entitled as employees.
A TWU survey of Easi drivers found 40% reporting their average weekly earnings were less than $15 an hour, well below the minimum wage for an employee.
Du said he hoped the case serves as a test case for others.
“I will speak out against them and I don’t have any doubt that this case and in my experience that what I’m fighting for and what the union is fighting for is worthwhile, it is certainly worthwhile for the greater good for the social cause.”
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine called for the federal government to act and regulate the gig economy.
“The federal government’s stuck its fingers in its ears and is refusing to listen. It won’t take responsibility or step up to fix the problem. Delivery riders need an independent body to create and enforce minimum workplace pay and safety standards.”