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DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Regional Arbitration Branch (RAB-XI) of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in the Davao Region found foodpanda Philippines Incorporated (FP) guilty of terminating the employment of seven workers in July 2021.
In a decision received on Monday, July 25, by the complainants, labor arbiter Rovyne Jumao-as of RAB-XI ordered the popular food delivery company to pay the workers, all delivery riders, P2.24 million for illegal dismissal.
The amount covers the full back wages, including the 13th-month pay, service incentive leave, and separation pay instead of the reinstatement of Edmund Carrillo, Francis Ghlenn Costan, Nerjhun Claramon, Manuel Lapiña, Roberto Gonzaga, Jeffrey Cabusas, and Nawar Solaiman.
Jumao-as, in her decision dated June 30, ordered the company to pay the workers from P234,000 to P368,000 each.
Carrillo, one of the workers and the president of Davao United Delivery Riders Association Incorporated, told Rappler that the NLRC decision was a vindication.
But he said he expected foodpanda to appeal the case, and he was determined to seek justice in the higher courts.
Carrillo said he and about 50 of his fellow workers were notified on July 13, 2021, that they were suspended from work until 2031.
Only 10 brought their complaint to the NLRC, but three slowly returned to work, he said.
Carrillo said their 10-year suspension order came after foodpanda learned that the delivery riders were planning an out-of-town ride for two days in July 2021, a plan that would have affected the firm’s food delivery operations.
“Just right after my last delivery for the day on July 13, I was notified that I was suspended from working for foodpanda until 2031. That’s for 10 years,” Carrillo said.
At that time, the workers complained about the reduction of their distance pay without clear computations.
“We began questioning the pay we’re getting, which got smaller and smaller. The company couldn’t show us the computations. The delivery payment was supposedly dependent on the distance between customer and the establishment, and we only got a fixed rate,” he said.
Carrillo joined foodpanda in September 2018, and he began earning as much as P30,000 in 15 days because there were only a few riders back then.
But when the pandemic hit, many soon joined the delivery services firm, and his income started to plunge.
Former Davao City councilor Pamela Librado, who has been helping the delivery riders, told Rappler that the NLRC’s decision only recognized the rights of the dismissed workers who deserved back wages and other benefits the law provides.
“To me, this is just a tactical victory because we’re yet heading to the exciting part pending the possible appeal. We have to remain vigilant and continue the fight even if it reaches the Supreme Court as this is a landmark case. To me, this is the fight of all delivery riders in the country,” Librado said.
Librado has vowed to support the delivery riders until they get compensated.
Labor arbiter Jumao-as said it was difficult to determine the employment status of the delivery riders given the online transactions, but she was guided by the principles of social justice that protect the underprivileged.
In a statement on Saturday, July 30, foodpanda said it learned about the NLRC decision only through news reports as it had yet to receive a copy of the document.
The company said it was holding dialogues with their “Ka Panda” delivery freelancers regarding their concerns.
“Meanwhile, we continue the dialogues that we have been holding with our active Ka Panda partner delivery freelancers to discuss their concerns. In recent weeks especially, we have worked closely with our Ka Pandas to address their concerns regarding fuel price hikes, and have been supporting them to augment their earnings through additional incentives in their quests, fuel discounts from our partner providers, and facilitating increased tipping through our app,” foodpanda said.