June 24, 2024

The city council will look into the legality of the operation of an online delivery company following complaints of some Baguio-based delivery riders for its non-compliance to labor guidelines and unfair labor practices.

Delivery riders working for online delivery platform Food Panda also known as Delivery Hero, represented by the National Union of Delivery Riders, sought for the city government’s assistance in making known their situation to the firm, which has its main office in Taguig City.

In the city council’s session on May 27, union spokesperson John Jay Chan relayed the non-compliance of the online firm to Department of Labor and Employment guidelines on the test for the presence of employer-employee relationship and the benefits that must be provided to online delivery riders.

In the case of city-based Food Panda delivery riders, Chan said the firm considers its delivery riders as independent contractors to evade providing benefits and privileges.

The union argues there is an employer-employee relationship since the firm exercises control over the riders being the one managing the allocation or assignment of delivery clients to them.

They also decried the lack of mechanism in the payment of delivery fees and non-payment of Social Security, PhilHealth, and insurance and hazard benefits.

Chan also told the council that the firm does not have an office or hub in Baguio, which leaves them nowhere to go to for assistance in safety concerns such as when riders figure in accidents while on duty.

“All transactions we have with the firm are done online, from application, submission of requirements, work orientation, and allocation of clients. It has been its practice to not have hubs in cities or areas where it operates,” Chan said.  

He said the company also does not provide safety gears like personal protective helmets and equipment.

Among the onerous provisions in the delivery riders’ contract with the firm are the lack of fare matrix and the firm can terminate the contract at any time for any reason.

“In most instances, delivery riders fear of having their account with the firm deactivated or suspended once it learns the riders organize as a union to push for their welfare,” Chan said.

He added the firm tends to misrepresent the work setup by packaging them as freelancers where riders supposedly can manage their work time, but he claimed in reality the fare matrix and allocation of deliveries are handled by the firm, which they argued as a form of control.

He said they have brought their concerns to the attention of the Food Panda management in many instances but the firm has not responded. Other chapters of the group experienced being told by the firm that the riders cannot claim unfair labor practice because they are not employees.

Councilor Lourdes Tabanda said there is a need to look into the operation of the online delivery platform since it is not registered as a business entity in the city, which means the delivery riders working in the city do not have a business permit.

“We are surprised to find out it has no office and business registration. Lahat kayo puwedeng hulihin for working without permit, so the first thing we need to know is to look into their business operation,” Tabanda said.

She also suggested for the DOLE to study the issues raised by the online delivery riders to determine the exercise of control by the firm over the riders, which Tabanda said is one of the essential requisites of employer-employee relationship.

Atty. Anthony Wooden, Jr. who represented DOLE-Cordillera Director Nathaniel Lacambra during the session said they will look into the matter.

He said businesses using digital platforms are new and reporting of compliance by employers to labor guidelines is voluntary, but the DOLE has issued Labor Advisory 14-21 which outlines the guidelines on online platform business firms and information on how to determine the presence of an employer-employer relationship, among others.

The concerned Food Panda delivery riders early last month held a work stoppage and released a statement to air their complaints.

In seeking an audience with the city council, Chan said they hope to first have a dialogue with the Food Panda management to settle the issues.

The group will also submit to the city council a position paper which contains a “charter of rights” which they hope could be adopted through a resolution or ordinance by the local government to protect the welfare of the delivery riders.

The city council will send an invitation for Food Panda management to attend the session and answer the concerns, while Councilor Jose Molintas made a motion to get a certification from City Permits and Licensing Division and City Treasurer’s Office whether or not Food Panda has a business permit and for its management to explain why it should not be recommended for prosecution for doing business in the city without securing a permit. – Hanna C. Lacsamana