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Menulog: Will They Deliver?

A food delivery worker on route to delivering a meal via bike

A food delivery worker on route to delivering a meal via bike.

Following on from recent news that Uber in the UK are going to begin classing their workers as workers, Menulog announced in a Senate hearing this week that “within a few years” they will be moving towards a model of direct employment. 

On face value, it seems a very positive announcement. “Definitely a big step,” says Jack, a TWU organiser. “Notwithstanding the need to make sure they deliver in a way which benefits riders.” There are still many vital details that need to be established. 

In the absence of details there are some things we can piece together. First, as direct employees, delivery riders and drivers will be subject to minimum wage requirements. Uber’s recent changes for their workers in the UK have a similar requirement, but the key difference is the time factored into minimum wage calculations. Uber’s model will not account for the time between trips, whereas it looks like the Menulog system will apply to all time spent logged into the app. 

The difference between gig workers and employees.

The difference between gig workers and employees.

However, before we start singing “Menulog Forever” there’s an important point to be made. Menulog hasn’t said what kind of employees their riders and drivers will be. They may well end up as casuals, which could potentially give rise to other issues. 

“I want to be able to have a sick day. I want to be able to have a holiday with my family,” says Ady, a driver for Menulog (and other platforms) in New South Wales. “These are the same rights that everyone has and we don’t want anything more than that.” 

“During peak hours you normally get enough deliveries to make decent money,” says Ady. But then there are the dead periods.

Ady has done more than his fair share of those quiet days. “Being anxious is second nature to each and every driver out there,” says Ady. “You sit there for hours at a time, checking your phone, and you might not get anything for a long time.” 

And then the built-up pressure comes during peak hours. During these periods, the hours of waiting for work need to be balanced out, leading to a frenzied rush to complete orders. It’s unsafe, and causes workers to be injured or even killed. Five delivery riders were killed on Australian roads just last year. At the very least, direct employees will be covered by company insurance and workers’ compensation laws in the event of a workplace injury, but no one should be hurt at work in the first place. The hazard is the pace and the demands of the work, which must be addressed by any future changes. 

You sit there for hours at a time, checking your phone, and you might not get anything for a long time.

It’s hard to say how much protection from unfair dismissal or discrimination will materialise. Such things are enshrined in the law, but we all know far too well that a casual worker can simply have their shifts cut down without triggering any kind of actual dismissal. 

The TWU and other unions are optimistic. The timing of the announcement suggests the company sees the writing on the wall: that workers’ rights are vital to their future viability. We’ve seen recently that Deliveroo’s Initial Public Offering was a massive failure, largely because of campaigning from workers and unions. Investors don’t want to put their money into something that is unsustainable, and that was the message Deliveroo workers had for the world: we can’t go on like this.

As always, Megaphone Journal will keep readers up to date with future developments. Stay tuned to see whether Menulog delivers for their workers.

Following on from recent news that Uber in the UK are going to begin classing their workers as workers, Menulog announced in a Senate hearing this week that “within a few years” they will be moving towards a model of direct employment. On face value, it seems a very positive announcement. “Definitely a big step,” says Jack, a TWU organiser. “Notwithstanding the need to make sure they deliver in a way which benefits riders.” There are still many vital details that need to be established.

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