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Foodpanda suspends riders for 10 years

/ 04:52 AM July 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Popular food delivery app Foodpanda slapped a 10-year suspension on about 30 of its riders in Davao City last week, a day before they were set to stay offline to protest against the app’s wage policy. When hundreds of riders rallied in response, another 70 who participated were also suspended for 10 years.

Some of the suspended accounts were reinstated later after the company launched a whistleblower program, which offered the suspended riders their jobs back in return for information about the protest, according to a Google Forms document from Foodpanda seen by the Inquirer.

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As of Sunday, only 43 accounts remained suspended, according to Edmund Carillo, president and cofounder of the Davao United Delivery Riders Association Inc., a riders’ group formed last May.

The events last week were triggered by queries from the riders asking how their wages were being computed. This was after they noticed they had been earning less lately from each delivery.

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Carillo said the group even met with a company representative — the latest being in June — without any satisfactory result.

It was supposed to be a silent protest, he said. The plan was to stay offline for two days starting Wednesday, but there was no plan to rally.

Carillo said the group has about a thousand members. While all of them deliver for Foodpanda, he said he didn’t have an idea how many would go offline on July 14 and 15 since he left that choice to the riders themselves.

‘Disruptions’

Foodpanda Philippines said in an email to the Inquirer on Saturday that it suspended riders who were found to have broken their agreement with the company, causing “disruptions to operations that affect the wider ecosystem of restaurant-partners and customers.”

“While we initiate regular local dialogues with riders to discuss their concerns, we encourage our riders to share their feedback and concerns via our support channels, so we are able to address them properly and promptly,” it added.

“We are aware of concerns raised by some of our riders with regards to rider fees… Foodpanda has always provided a fair compensation structure, so riders can earn a living in a flexible way,” Foodpanda said in a statement sent to the Inquirer on Sunday.

Agreement violation

Carillo said someone must have tipped off management about the plan. On July 13, he said about 30 of them got suspended even before they could start their protest. The violation, as Foodpanda explained in its notice, was for planning not to show up for work.

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“You are suspended until 13.07.2031 (July 13, 2031),” said the notice on the app seen by the Inquirer.

Foodpanda said it received reports that the riders were planning not to show up on their shifts on July 14, 15 and 16, although Carillo clarified that the planned protest did not include July 16.

“We would like to remind you that doing these actions affects fellow riders and Foodpanda. This action is against the freelance agreement with Foodpanda. Your actions are in violation of the said agreement. Because of this, we would like to inform that you are offboarded from Foodpanda,” it said.

The suspension pushed them to the streets. On Thursday, the riders rallied along Roxas Avenue near Freedom Park in Davao City.

Wage issue

Carillo said he was expecting some 100 riders to join, but was surprised to see 300 to 400 Foodpanda riders joining them that day.

According to a copy of Foodpanda’s latest freelance agreement seen by the Inquirer, the company “reserves the right and has sole discretion to change the service fees at any time.” The rider only has to keep using the app to show his or her “acceptance of such change.”

Before the latest service fees, Carillo recalled that the app must have changed the way it computed its fees twice.

When he joined the app in 2018, he said they were paid on a per-hour basis, regardless if they were allocated a ride or not. The hourly pay was eventually changed to a no-work, no-pay system. This had a flat rate of P55 per delivery that goes to the rider regardless of the distance.

Carillo said they were now being paid based on the distance of their delivery, as they noticed on their apps, but didn’t know the rate per distance. He said he would take home only P29 from each delivery.

He said Foodpanda used a “ruler system,” which measured the distance between the vendor and the customer without considering other factors such as the streets that made the trip longer.

Not employees

The case in Davao City is the latest example of the consequences food delivery riders face for not being considered employees by the apps that hired them.

Arnold de Vera, who teaches labor law at the University of the Philippines College of Law, said food delivery riders, including those hired by Foodpanda, met the four-fold test of the Department of Labor and Employment and should therefore be treated as employees.

The suspension was another act by Foodpanda that could be used to confirm its employment relationship with its riders, he said in a phone interview with the Inquirer on Saturday.

“This contradicts what they were saying that you can work according to your own time and day,” De Vera said.

“I can’t see any violation. Nothing happened yet. Even if something did, even Foodpanda said you can work according to your own hours and days. You determine how you work. So how can there be a violation if [the riders] were merely exercising that right?” he said.

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