Deliverers from the food delivery company Hungry Panda are required to have their own insurance, but the company says it does not check whether the policies are valid, a survey heard.
Hungry Panda’s human resources manager, Tina Sun, revealed that the company employed 100 to 150 couriers a day in Sydney.
But a NSW Select Parliamentary Committee hearing investigating security in the gig economy was told that Hungry Panda paid only $ 3,000 a year in workers’ compensation awards.
Ms. Sun said that this covers the 25 employees in the Sydney office, but not the couriers, who she said are not employed as workers, but as “independent contractors”.
“We demand that they have their own insurance,” she told the inquiry.
“We collect the certificates, but in practice we cannot guarantee that all policies are valid.”
“It looks like you are getting a free ride with the system here,” Green MP David Shoebridge told Sun.
“I wouldn’t agree with that,” she replied.
A Hungry Panda deliveryman told the survey that he earned between $ 150 and $ 200 for working 12 hours a day.
Jun Yang, a father of four children from China, 51, said he received $ 9 for delivery at the start of his contract, but was later reduced to $ 3 for delivery.
He said his job was ended when he and another delivery man staged a protest against rate cuts.
“When we went on strike, they just sent me a message and my number was blocked,” he told the investigation, speaking through a mandarin interpreter.
He said that since then other drivers have been too concerned to speak.
Ms. Sun contested Yang’s version of the events, saying he had been fired because of customer complaints.
She also said that delivery fees vary depending on the distance traveled.
Last year, five delivery men were killed on Australian roads in just two months.
Many more were injured in road accidents.
But Yang and his companion, Hungry Panda, Fang Sun, told the inquiry that they had received no traffic safety training.
“They didn’t provide anything,” said Sun.
Greens MP David Shoebridge asked Ms. Sun if the company was aware that pilots felt “insecure” as they ran from job to job.
“I didn’t hear much about it, just at this morning’s hearing,” replied Ms. Sun.
She said that security was Hungry Panda’s “first priority”.
She said that all passengers received a road user’s manual during the “integration process” when they started working for the company.
She later admitted that the company initially did not report the death of one of its passengers to the state workplace health and safety regulator, SafeWork NSW, as required by law.
Forty-three years Xioajun Chen, who worked for Hungry Panda to support his wife and two children in China, died in September last year after crashing into a bus in Sydney.
“Were you aware that you had a legal obligation to report to SafeWork NSW at the time?” Committee Chairman, Labor MP Daniel Mookhey asked Ms. Sun.
“No,” she replied.
The hearing was informed that the company had not paid any compensation to Chen’s family.
“Mr. Chen has already received compensation for mandatory third party insurance, about $ 20,000, and of course we are not claiming this, we see this as compensation,” said Sun.
She said that Hungry Panda paid for family expenses for traveling from China after the accident and for funeral costs.
She said that talks about a possible compensation payment continue with Chen’s widow.
“We did what we could to support the family, but I have to say that there is no evidence that we have violated any obligation,” Sun said at the hearing.
Hungry Panda was founded in the UK in 2016 and has expanded rapidly around the world, opening a branch in Sydney in late 2019.
Ms. Sun said the survey served a “niche market” for exclusively Chinese speakers.