Uber Eats riders’ families launch legal battle for compensation after deaths

The transport union has launched legal proceedings in an attempt to force the NSW state insurer to pay compensation for the deaths of two Uber Eats riders who were killed in accidents while working on Sydney streets in 2020

Under state law, employees’ families are entitled to a payment of more than $860,000 if a loved one dies because of their job, but most contractors, such as gig economy workers for platforms including Uber, are typically excluded.

Bijoy Paul, a 27-year-old Uber Eats rider from Bangladesh, was killed in a road incident in 2020.

NSW state workers’ compensation agency iCare rejected claims for compensation from Shimu Paul, sister of the late rider Bijoy Paul, and Nyoman Sunatri, the widow of rider Dede Fredy, in May. Both families received smaller but still significant payouts from Uber’s insurer Chubb.

On Wednesday, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) filed claims with the NSW Personal Injury Commission challenging those decisions by iCare and arguing that both men died in accidents during employment with Uber. It cited the nature of their employment and the degree of control Uber had over them, while the company has consistently defended its contractor employment model, pointing to the flexibility riders get in an approach previously upheld by the courts.

Shimu Paul said her family was still suffering because of her brother’s death. “Bijoy was the only son of my parents and was working to support our family,” she said in a statement via the union. “My parents deserve justice so that nobody is forced to go through the pain we feel.”

Sunatri is overseas and could not be contacted. An iCare spokesman declined to comment, citing confidentiality provisions.

An Uber spokeswoman expressed the company’s sympathy to the riders’ families and confirmed its insurer had made payments to them. Uber would not answer questions publicly about the value of those payments, but its national policy with Chubb now extends up to $500,000 in the event of a death. It had a maximum of around $400,000 at the time of the deaths.

“The safety of all those who use the Uber platform is fundamental,” the Uber spokeswoman said, adding the company last year accelerated the rollout of further road safety measures.

In June this year, the family of a rider with Hungry Panda, another gig economy food delivery company, won a landmark death payout, but each company’s practices are different, forcing the tribunal to decide afresh.

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