Foodpanda riders trooped to the Department of Labor this week to protest what they claimed were unfair practices of the food delivery platform that diminished their pay.
Management said the new distance-based payment scheme is "more organized and fair" and that foodpanda is working to accomodate more drivers to the platform as demand for food delivery rises during the long-running quarantine.
Reportr talked to several foodpanda riders for this story. They declined to be named for privacy reasons. Foodpanda refused further comment and instead referred to their statement released earlier this week.
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"Gusto sana namin, makarating ito sa ibang bansa. Hindi namin alam kung ganito din ang sistema, kung kelan dumadami at lumalakas saka kami binabawasan," said one rider.
The rider, who had been with foodpanda since last year, said that before the new system, he was getting a flat rate of P75 per delivery and another P40 per hour regardless of the volume of deliveries.
Under the new system, one recent delivery paid P59. The P40 per hour was also scrapped and foodpanda stopped reimbursing parking fees.
What's the foodpanda system like?
The drivers are also complaining about an "Auto Break" system wherein riders are placed on forced break (for five to 30 minutes) if they fail to accept an order on the foodpanda app.
Before, they would receive voice calls informing them of orders. Now, it is app-based and the riders need to tap an "accept" button for the order to proceed. Failure to do this could result in an "Auto Break," he said.
"Paano pag busy ka sa kalsada? Sasabihin hindi kami gumagalaw papunta sa vendor. Yan yung mga bagay na hindi nila kinoconsider," he said. The rider said the prompt is not loud enough for riders to respond to them immediately.
"Minsan, nandoon na kami sa vendor tsaka ica-cancel yung order," he said.
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An "Auto Break" also comes with another penalty, a demotion in Batch. Riders work in Batches 1 to 5, with 1 being the highest. The higher the batch, the higher the chances of getting an order. Riders in lower batches find it harder to get orders.
"Kailangan sa foodpanda, madami kang order para meron kang kita," he said.
How does a rider get into Batch 1? He or she must be on time, have a high acceptance rate for orders and should be available during peak hours: 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Like other delivery apps, foodpanda riders don't have employment benefits because of the contractual nature of their work. Riders are referred to by the company as "partners."
Is there a case to be made?
Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III said he would meet with the foodpanda riders to hear their grievances.
The possibility of the dispute escalating into an actual case will depend on the nature of employment between foodpanda and its riders. With foodpanda's partner system, this could be tricky, said labor lawyer Arnie de Vera.
"Pag hindi ka employee and independent contractual lang talaga nature, lahat ng terms and conditions such as pay and how you're supposed to do your work is based on what contract you signed," de Vera told reportr.
Under the Labor Code, employers cannot in any way diminish, discontinue, or eliminate the agreed-upon perks of tenured or regular employees. What can foodpanda riders do? They can keep clamoring for support, especially among their ranks, he said.
"Mawawalan lang ng leverage yung foodpanda riders if they’re not organized. If isa lang masama loob, dalawa lang, or kahit marami pero di organized, foodpanda can just do what it wants. The riders will just have to swallow it," he said.
In the Facebook community FOODPANDA Riders/Bikers, riders are divided between those who joined the unity ride on Wednesday and those who find that the system works for them or just choose to grit it out.
De Vera said it would be "more fair" for foodpanda to treat riders as employees because they do the job of the app, which is to deliver food.
Work productivity determined by a computerized system
Another foodpanda rider looked at it as a systemic problem.
"Lahat po system generated talaga. Halimbawa may natanggap kang order isang minuto hindi ka gumalaw, maaring ibawas sayo yun ni system. Or na traffic ka, sasabihin ni system di ka gumalaw papuntang pick up, mababawasan acceptance rate mo tsaka total work hours. Kahit di mo naman kasalanan," the rider said.
The issue will serve as a test of how well foodpanda can handle the rider community, said De Vera, the labor lawyer.
"Parang lagi kang gini-grade. Hindi lang to everyday quiz, parang may camerang laging nakaturo sayo," he said.
"Ang magiging challenge talaga niyan, how long can they keep their people. Because if foodpanda continues to treat its employees this way, it's only a matter of time before they find happiness and job security elsewhere," he said.