Closing Loopholes Bill: Senate inquiry hears harrowing details of UberEats rider’s death; industrial relations

The family of Burak Drogan, a 30-year old UberEats rider who was killed in a collision with a truck, has spoken out in favour of new minimum standards for gig workers.

Speaking at a Senate inquiry which is examining the government’s proposed shake-up to workplace rules, Mr Drogan’s uncle Yavuz Cikar spoke of the tragedy surrounding his nephew’s death.

“When we sent his body back to his parents in Turkey, we had to wrap him up in plastic film to hold the body together,” Mr Cikar said.

“Burying your only son is something no parent should go through.”

Whether Mr Drogan was riding for the platform at the time of his death is a point of contention.

While Uber says Mr Drogan was not making a delivery at the time nor had he completed a delivery that day, Mr Cizar said his nephew was working and the platform must be held accountable.

“Uber never reported that to the safety regulator. They never sent a letter of condolences to the family. They never paid even a single dollar towards his funeral expenses or anything else,” Mr Cizar said.

“They said Burak wasn’t working for them at the time.”

Workers on digital platforms, including Uber, are often engaged as independent contractors, rather than direct employees, meaning they are not entitled to conditions such as minimum hourly wages, sick days or insurance.

However, under the government’s proposed changes the role of Australia’s workplace umpire, the Fair Work Commission, will be expanded to set new minimum standards for these gig workers.

Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine also voiced his support for the changes, claiming they would be lifesaving following multiple deaths in the sector in recent years.

“Transport is a price taking industry – it’s subjected to deadly and unsustainable pressures from unchecked commercial power at the top of complex transport, contractual change,” Mr Kaine said.

“The gig economy came in and now that’s ripped away the floor … now it’s an industry in free fall.”

In September, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) filed a compensation claim on behalf of Mr Dogan’s family to the Personal Injury Commission after Uber and the NSW insurer iCare denied liability.

The proposed changes to platform work have garnered strong support from the union movement, which argues the current conditions in the gig economy deliberately deprive workers of their basic rights and entitlements.

But employer groups have maintained that major gig economy platforms have shown a willingness to set minimum pay and insurance standards, and the changes wouldn’t do anything to enhance safety.

The Senate inquiry is expected to release its report into the legislation by early next year.

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