General Santos City

General Santos food delivery riders organize union, seek reforms

Rommel Rebollido
General Santos food delivery riders organize union, seek reforms

FILE PHOTO. Riders delivers flowers on Valentines Day in February 2021.

Grab Philippines Facebook page

A group of food delivery riders take part in a 'unity parade' in General Santos City as a show of force in their advocacy for reforms in their industry

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Food delivery riders in General Santos banded together on Monday, August 15, to protest what they called their widespread exploitation by companies behind popular online food and grocery delivery platforms who see them merely as freelance workers.

A group of food delivery riders took part in a “unity parade” to launch the workers’ union in this city, and as a show of force in their advocacy for reforms in their industry.

The group, supported by the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisang at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the International Union of Food (IUF), said it was committed to fighting for the rights of the delivery riders against illegal offboarding, illegal termination, and suspension without due process.

Close to 300 of them signed up to the United Delivery Riders of the Philippines (RIDERS), a labor union of those working for companies such as Foodpanda, Grab, and Maxim.

Protest organizers said there are 1,080 delivery riders based in General Santos City and nearby towns alone, and Foodpanda and Grab account for 800 of them while the remaining 280 work for Maxim.

Since none of them are considered employees, the workers have not been entitled to insurance coverage, health care, and other benefits that regular employees enjoy.

A small group of delivery riders told Rappler they did not take part in the “unity parade.”

“We don’t like to have anything to do with them. It’s their problem,” one of the workers said.

Herbert Demos, the SENTRO coordinator in the Soccsksargen, said the food delivery riders were subjected to “slave-like working conditions.”

Demos said the suspensions, which were done arbitrarily by companies, can run from three months to 10 years or even a lifetime, which are tantamount to work termination.

“They are even made to pay for canceled orders or those made by scammers,” he said.

Given the exploitative conditions, he said, the delivery riders decided to organize a union to blow the whistle on abuses.

It was the second time for General Santos’ delivery riders to dramatize their protest against their alleged exploitation. On July 11, many of them skipped work as a silent protest against what they described as the government’s indifference toward their plight.

“They are vulnerable to exploitation, and this has been happening to many of them already,” Demos said.

One of the protesters told Rappler, “A lot of people think all is well with us, and that we’re earning a lot of money. The opposite is happening.”

Demos said they were expecting more delivery riders to join the workers’ union.

“Without an organization to support them, many riders chose to be silent for fear of losing their source of income,” he said.

In June, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in the Davao Region ruled against Foodpanda Philippines Incorporated for terminating the employment of seven workers in July 2021. Some of them were suspended for 10 years.

Labor arbiter Rovyne Jumao-as, of NLRC’s Regional Arbitration Branch in Davao, directed Foodpanda to pay the workers, from P234,000 to P368,000 each, or a total of P2.24 million for illegal dismissal.

The amount covers the seven workers’ full back wages, including their 13th-month pay, service incentive leaves, and separation pays.

The seven workers were Edmund Carrillo, Francis Ghlenn Costan, Nerjhun Claramon, Manuel Lapiña, Roberto Gonzaga, Jeffrey Cabusas, and Nawar Solaiman.

Carrillo, who is the president of the Davao United Delivery Riders Association Incorporated, called the NLRC decision a vindication but said they were anticipating their case to reach the Supreme Court. – Rappler.com

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