Ray Martin, Lee Lin Chin, Hamish Blake, Andy Lee, Lleyton Hewitt, Magda Szubanksi, Anh Do and The Wiggles – just a few of the celebrities and sporting personalities who have featured in recent television commercials for UberEats. All have no doubt been very well rewarded for their endorsement in what has been an advertising blitz by the global behemoth. Whether any of them have been aware of the criticism and controversy surrounding Uber and other food delivery companies over the treatment of their scooter riders, remains to be seen – and they may well have been blissfully unaware.
If they were familiar with the situation prior to signing up with Uber, you might enquire if they actually faced any ethical dilemma at the time. That is something you would have to ask each of the celebrities individually, as well as the agents who advise them. In the meantime Uber, and other food delivery brands continued to be embroiled in a constant battle with their lowest paid drivers over insurance and their status as either contractors or employees.
A few weeks ago the ABC highlighted the case of Burak Dogan, a Turkish student working for Uber, who was killed last year whilst riding his electric bike in Sydney’s inner west. Even though Dogan was logged onto the Uber app at the time, the company refused to acknowledge his death as a workplace fatality, claiming his shift had finished some 15 minutes earlier. Their insurer then rejected a claim worth around $400,000. Dogan joined three other Uber riders, Dede Fredy, Bijoy Paul and Ik Wong who were killed during 2020.
Whilst Uber has introduced free insurance for its riders and various safety initiatives, it has fought hard globally to maintain its workforce as contractors, as opposed to employees who would qualify for holiday pay and workers compensation. The fact remains that its poorly paid riders are placed under constant pressure to fulfill their orders, navigating Sydney’s often hazardous traffic aboard a small motor scooter which offers little protection if they are involved in an accident. Apart from the four deaths in 2020, SafeWork NSW documents tabled in NSW Parliament documented some 74 “serious notifiable injuries” to UberEats riders in the same year.
The pandemic and the various lockdowns have seen a surge in the demand for home delivered meals and no doubt providers like UberEats, Menulog and DoorDash are cleaning up. If all deliveries were restricted to actual motor vehicles, rather than scooters and bicycles, the industry would be a lot safer. It could even be a selling point for some companies, with patrons prepared to pay a little extra for their food arriving by car rather than risking the life of a scooter rider.
We live in an age where influencers have run amok on the internet and celebrity endorsement has never been stronger. There is a long list of dodgy products that the big names like Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Gwyneth Paltrow and 50 Cent have put their name to, all in the name of financial kickback. Maybe some of our own celebs and Instagram stars need to be a bit more cautious and ethical in their choice of consumer items to endorse.
Perhaps if the commercial TV networks, who benefit greatly from Uber and Menulog advertising, gave more time to highlighting the problems of the industry (rather than leaving it to the ABC) the general public would be better informed. Who wants to put somebody’s life at risk or cause them serious injury just because you have an ache in your belly for a home delivered meal?