NSW delivery driver paid out after death

TWU boss Michael Kaine says the compensation paid to a food delivery driver hit by a bus is overdue. -AAP Image

The family of a food delivery driver who died after being hit by a bus will be paid $830,000 compensation after he was recognised as an employee under NSW labour laws. 

Xiaojun Chen, 43, died in September 2020 while riding his motorbike for HungryPanda in Sydney.

His lawyers from Slater and Gordon said his family will receive $830,000 after being recognised as an employee, instead of an independent contractor, under the NSW workers' compensation scheme.

Mr Chen's "ground-breaking" case makes it the first in Australia where a gig economy worker is considered an employee.

Under Australian labour laws, being an independent contractor means not being entitled to minimum wage, sick leave and annual leave.

At least five food delivery riders, all from migrant backgrounds, were killed in the space of two months in 2020 in road accidents across NSW while on the job.

Their deaths prompted the establishment of a government task force last year.

Earlier this month, compensation scheme insurance agent Employers Mutual Limited admitted in a landmark decision that Mr Chen was employed by HungryPanda when he died.

"To our knowledge, this is the first case where there has been an admission that a gig economy driver has been considered a worker," said the law firm's Jasmina Mackovic.

Mr Chen's widow, Lihong Wei, said the decision would bring "respect and recognition to all food delivery workers for the essential service they provide".

The Transport Workers' Union welcomed the decision saying it's long overdue after a "bloodbath on our roads", referring to the deaths of delivery drivers working for multi-national companies.

"No family should have to experience the indescribable grief of losing a loved one at work," TWU secretary Michael Kaine said.

"While no amount of compensation will truly heal the loss Xiaojun's family feels, this decision goes a long way towards righting a horrible wrong.

"For too long, gig companies have been able to skirt the edges of our out-dated industrial relations law which divides workers into two camps: one which receives hard-won rights, and one which is not entitled to any basic protections."

In April, a NSW parliamentary report said "the absence of guaranteed minimum wages and working hours ... paid leave provisions, poor safety standards and the lack of a fair dispute system in the event of workplace injury" was troubling.

Among the report's 22 recommendations to the government was multi-national platforms registering with SafeWork NSW before trading to ensure they meet obligations to make a payout in case of accidents on the job.