Exclusive by Lydia Feng
Akshay Doultani was hit by a car while delivering for Uber Eats in the Sydney suburb of Epping.(Supplied)
Akshay Doultani always dreamed big.
The 22-year-old travelled to Sydney from Mumbai, India in February after receiving a scholarship to complete a master’s degree in finance at Macquarie University.
“The only reason why he wanted to come abroad was not [just to] have a good life for himself but to provide more amenities for his family so they could live a lifestyle that was much better,” his cousin Pratik Kamath told the ABC.
But Mr Doultani’s hope for a brighter future will never be realised after he was killed last month when an SUV hit his motorcycle in Epping in Sydney’s north west.
He was riding for Uber Eats at the time.
The Indian national’s death is the latest in a spate of delivery rider fatalities on Australian roads.
A life cut short
Mr Doultani hoped that living abroad would enable him to financially support his parents and younger sister back home one day.
To cover his expenses, he worked as an Uber Eats delivery rider at least three times a week.
“He was a motivator and a leader and the best brother to me anyone could ask for,” Mr Kamath said.
“Akshay was a person who never really did anything wrong. He was very righteous.”
Akshay Doultani with his family in India as the 22-year-old prepared to leave for Sydney.(Supplied)
After the collision – which is the subject of an investigation by NSW Police and Safework NSW – Mr Doultani was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital but died hours later.
The death was so sudden, his friends and family didn’t get a chance to see or speak to him in his final moments.
Mr Doultani’s uncle, Sunil Paryani, travelled from Hong Kong to collect the body.
“The most important thing is to get Akshay back home and then we can have our own Indian rituals, after that we will see the course of action we take,” he said.
“It’s very hard for the parents to digest their only son is no more.”
Akshay Doultani’s cousin Pratik Kamath and uncle Sunil Paryani.(ABC News: Lydia Feng)
Urgent reform needed
Mr Doultani is the 12th food delivery rider to be killed in Australia since 2017, according to the Transport Workers’ Union.
The deaths have sparked calls from the TWU for gig economy workers to have minimum pay and conditions such as sick leave, holiday leave, breaks and workers compensation.
“If those things are not in place, then these workers are going to continue to be under these deadly pressures,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.
“We’ve got to get a system in place that recognises these workers as workers.”
Akshay Doultani’s family said he picked up the job in Sydney to help cover his expenses as a student.(Supplied)
The federal government is currently considering reforms to the gig economy to better protect the approximately 250,000 workers in the industry.
The proposed changes would set minimum pay and conditions and give the Fair Work Commission the remit to regulate “employee-like workers”.
Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the legislation will be introduced into parliament in the coming weeks.
“As long as this area of the economy remains regulation free, there’s effectively no minimum rate,” he said.
“Rates can go lower and lower and lower for riders and there is a direct line from being paid fairly and being able to work in a safe way.
“A whole lot of gig workers like the form of engagement and so we’re not trying to turn them into employees,” he said.
However, he said it should be possible for gig workers to have a minimum rate of pay and they should not end up being paid less than if they were an employee.
Last year the NSW government introduced new laws forcing food delivery companies to provide high-visibility protective equipment and induction training to riders.
NSW Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis said the government was now working on a election pledge to extend industrial relations protections, including workers compensation, to those in the gig economy.
“This death is tragic and it highlights the need for greater protections for our gig workers who are often vulnerable to workplace hazards,” Ms Cotsis said.
The Transport Workers’ Union said Mr Doultani’s death showed tougher laws were needed.
“It’s not good enough to simply target these workers and say you need to wear a vest … because that’s dealing with the symptoms,” Mr Kaine said.
In a statement, Uber Eats said it was committed to the safety of delivery workers and had policies in place to enhance road safety.
“In Australia, Uber Eats delivery people are covered by a support package designed specifically for them,” a company spokesperson said.
While politicians consider reform, Mr Paryani just wants his nephew back home.
“It’s devastating for his parents,” he said.
“It will take many years or maybe their whole life, they cannot forget.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Coverpage’s editorial stance