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Tales from your every day delivery rider in COVID-19

Often food delivery riders are seen as unskilled workers. Their resilience has led Australia to recover quickly from the coronavirus pandemic. But what was it really like driving down increasingly deserted streets to make sure everyday Australians get what they need? upcover has taken to the streets to speak with delivery riders to hear how they dealt with the challenging times.

Only option for young workers

They aren’t doctors or nurses, but food delivery riders were on the frontline doing some of the most important jobs with least protection during the coronavirus pandemic. “When the coronavirus arrived, I lost my job [as a waitress] and had to rent an electric bike to do deliveries. I was scared at the start. Being alone on the street and riding on the road took some getting used to as I had never done it before, but I am used to it now”, says Luciana, a marketing student from Argentina. For many people like Luciana, delivering food was the only option as they became vulnerable to losing their incomes and homes.

Even now despite easing restrictions in some states this work, delivery work continues to be their sole earnings. Caique used to work as a waiter for special events and other hospitality jobs told us, “to help me earn more, I also did UberEats. It was good, but now with the pandemic and restrictions the hospitality industry has shut down. I lost my other jobs so now I can only do deliveries.”

Tough conditions

There has been an unprecedented rise in the number of food delivery workers on the road since March. “Doing food deliveries with UberEats is the only job available for me right now. It was the same before the crisis as well. But at least it was good and earnings were fair. Nowadays, with so many riders, I earn much less than before”, says Camila, a recent arrival in Australia with former marketing experience. She works in the Sydney CBD region and explains how more number of workers means less work for her. 

While the average delivery still fetches $5.90, the increase in the number of delivery riders has meant longer wait times between orders. Despite Australia being a safe haven compared to many of riders’ home countries, all is not as it seems. Stevey says working as a delivery rider, “…resulted in knowing this amazing community across Sydney but to my shock, [I] also discovered how many struggle with their livelihood being riders with uncertain income streams, plus the risks they are exposed to on the road, absence of work health and safety support.” 

Limited protections and benefits 

Gustavo, a delivery rider for UberEats, talks about how problems over their protection have always been present. “A car hit me last week, here in Sydney. The driver was looking in another direction and did not see me. Once I fell off because the wheel of my bicycle got stuck on the light rail tracks. I was seriously injured and had to stop working for two weeks […] there is no information available for riders [about where to go for help]”. In the wake of COVID-19, lack of information has made it harder for these riders to protect themselves.

Positive note 

Many riders are sticking to their plans to save the earnings in Australia and travel once restrictions ease. Others are tenaciously continuing to look for work related to their professions – as architects, lawyers, chemical engineers. 

As life resumes, remember the contribution of your next delivery riders by battling tough circumstances suddenly brought on by COVID-19 (if you can, give them a smile, or a tip!). But the food delivery riders remain optimistic and modest about it by finding little joys of life. As Matias says, “nowadays, I think every day is the best time to look inside yourself and try to change things. It’s not every day that the whole world stops, so you have to keep going, take stock, look inward and take care of yourself.”

At upcover, we are proud to work to help build protection and benefits products for workers like these courageous delivery riders. For more features and snippets of delivery riders, check out our instagram page (@get_upcover) and leave a message. For more information on the current status of COVID-19, you can visit our resource centre here

About upcover

At upcover, we are committed to improving the safety of riders by providing support, resources and financial products to help them at work, at home and in between. upcover bridges the protection gap for the fastest growing workforce in Australia by providing the self-employed and independent contractors with the insurance protection and benefits they need.