Food delivery driver Chow Khai Shien the third gig economy worker to die in a month in Australia

Naaman Zhou
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Erik Anderson/AAP</span>
Photograph: Erik Anderson/AAP

A food delivery worker has been killed in a traffic collision in Melbourne, in what is the third death in a month among gig economy workers in Australia.

Chow Khai Shien, a 36-year-old man from Malaysia who worked for delivery company DoorDash, died on Saturday after he was hit by an allegedly stolen car in Melbourne’s CBD.

A spokeswoman for DoorDash said Chow was completing a delivery when he was killed.

According to Victoria police, a 20-year-old woman was driving an allegedly stolen Honda Civic sedan when she struck a man on a motorised scooter and a pedestrian at the intersection of King and La Trobe streets at 7pm on Saturday.

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The man was taken to hospital where he later died. The driver has been charged with culpable driving causing death and reckless conduct.

On Tuesday, the Chinese-language news site Sydney Today identified the man as Chow.

The outlet reported that his family became concerned after they did not hear from him for 26 hours, and his sister received a call from the Malaysian consulate confirming that he had been killed.

A spokesman for the Malaysian consulate confirmed that the family had been notified, and they were being given consular assistance.

Last month, two deliverers in Sydney – Dede Fredy, a 36-year-old Uber Eats rider, and Xiaojun Chen, a 43-year-old worker for the delivery app Hungry Panda – were killed in separate road accidents in the space of a week.

Chow previously worked for Uber Eats, but a spokeswoman for the company said Chow had not delivered for Uber Eats since June, and he did not have an active Uber Eats driver account.

The Transport Workers Union said the recent deaths had shone a spotlight on the dangerous conditions and lack of protections offered to delivery riders.

John Berger, the Victoria and Tasmania branch secretary of the TWU, said he had reported the Melbourne incident to WorkSafe Victoria.

“A much-loved brother, son and friend died while working as a delivery rider,” he said.

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“Throughout the Victorian lockdown, food delivery riders have been among the heroes who have allowed people to self-isolate and receive meals, and also allowed restaurants to stay open for business.”

Last month the widow of Xiaojun Chen, Lihong Wei, told Guardian Australia his death had left their family facing financial ruin, as it was unclear if they would be eligible for insurance or workplace compensation for his death.

A DoorDash spokeswoman told Guardian Australia the company would pay for funeral expenses and offer “additional financial support”.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Chow Khai Shien, a Melbourne-area Dasher, and our thoughts are with his family, friends and loved ones,” she said.

“We are in the process of reaching out to his family to offer our condolences, and will offer to pay funeral expenses and provide additional financial support during this difficult time. In addition, we are also offering our support to local law enforcement to assist them with their investigation of this tragic event.”

The national secretary of the TWU, Michael Kaine, said that the laws around gig economy work meant deliverers were classed as independent contractors rather than employees and entitled to fewer rights.

“When these companies do choose to help or provide insurance, it is at their discretion,” he said.