Baguio City

Baguio Foodpanda riders fight for better working conditions 

Sherwin de Vera

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Baguio Foodpanda riders fight for better working conditions 

PROTEST. Undeterred by the cold and rainy Baguio weather, Foodpanda delivery drivers stage their May 19, 2024 protest to call for better working conditions.

Sherwin De Vera/Rappler

Food delivery riders stop work for a day and gather to demand fair pay, just benefits, and better working conditions in Baguio

BAGUIO, Philippines – With no job during the COVID-19 pandemic, Albert decided to try his luck with the online food and grocery delivery platform Foodpanda. He said working for the delivery service firm allowed them to earn money and go out during the nationwide lockdown.  

“With Foodpanda, I can go out and deliver, and my income was more than my expenses. You get to save,” he said.  

With the easing of travel restrictions and other pandemic measures, competition became tighter.

“You get less sleep and must compete for your schedule. It is unfavorable if you do not have any other job,” Albert said.

He moved to Baguio City from his old city residence in 2022, a Foodpanda rider hoping for greener pastures. His decision did not disappoint him, saying that from the P800 average gross earnings in about four hours of delivery, he now earns around P2,000. 

While riders have several issues, he said, pay was still good until Foodpanda’s owner, Berlin-based Delivery Hero, implemented the “manual” method for choosing clients. The system allows the rider to choose the client orders nearest to them. However, it also significantly reduced their earnings. 

“When the ‘manual’ came into effect, our earnings became insufficient. It is extremely painful for us,” he said. 

For him, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

On the cold and drizzly Sunday morning, May 19, Albert and about 20 other riders gathered at the Baguio Convention Center for their “tigil byahe” (delivery stoppage) to demand fair pay, just benefits, and better working conditions. 

He said at least 180 Foodpanda drivers did not work in support of their action. 

Riders for online delivery services are part of the country’s growing number of gig workers, estimated at around 1.5 million. 

A 2021 Senate resolution filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros defined the sector as “technology-enabled forms of work, often temporary and flexible, utilized by companies that rely primarily on independent contractors and freelancers.” 

Call for transparency 

John Jay Chan, National Union of Food Delivery Riders (Riders) spokesperson, said transparency on the Foodpanda fare matrix is the primary problem. 

“The breakdown is not clear either. The rider does not know how Foodpanda calculates the meager fare it gives to the riders,” he told reporters on Sunday. 

Chan said allowing the riders to choose their deliveries was a good idea. However, the company allegedly used the scheme to lower the drivers’ share, he said.

Foodpanda’s owner stopped the manual system days after the first Baguio City riders’ protest on May 11. 

In addition to calling for better pay, the drivers also called on Delivery Hero to institute a transparent grievance mechanism and ensure due process before suspending them. They also want better insurance coverage and better benefits. 

“There should be due process, [the customer’s complaints] should be thoroughly investigated because it is unfair for the rider to be suspended for two days…. This happens almost every day, Albert said.

He added, “There is insurance, but it is not that substantial. The rider’s insurance should cover cases of accident or death.”

This is not the first time Foodpanda has been scrutinized for labor issues. The company was also among the gig economy platforms named in the 2022 Fairwork Philippines report that “could not evidence any of the minimum standards of fair work.” 

Insufficient protection 

Chan said that apart from the fear of losing their jobs if they protest company practices, “most delivery riders are unaware of their rights despite being considered independent contractors or freelancers.” 

In July 2021, the Department of Labor and Employment issued Labor Advisory No. 14 “to ensure compliance with applicable general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards and better working conditions” for riders in online courier and delivery services. 

But Chan said DOLE’s response was not enough. “Since this is a labor advisory, chances are the companies do not comply, so it really needs to be converted into a department order,” he said.

Chan added that the local government should also pass a measure based on the advisory to improve the condition of the freelance workers. 

“There is really a need for proper legislation and policies that can provide protection for delivery riders,” he said. 

To protect freelance workers, three bills are pending before the 19th Congress – Senate Bill Nos. 1373 by Hontiveros and 1275 introduced by Senator Francis Tolentino, and House Bill No. 6718  in the Lower House. –

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