NLRC affirms employee status of food delivery riders in Davao
DAVAO CITY—The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) upheld the ruling of a labor arbiter on June 30 last year that accords regular employee status to riders of delivery service company Foodpanda.
In an 18-page ruling promulgated on Dec. 7, 2022, the NLRC Eighth Division sustained labor arbiter Rovyne Jumao-as who said that the complainant riders from Davao City were illegally dismissed and hence entitled to P2.445 million in money claims representing back wages, separation pay and reimbursement of legal fees by Delivery Hero Philippines Inc. (formerly known as Foodpanda Philippines Inc.).
Saying Jumao-as committed an error in judging the case, the company elevated the case to the NLRC Eight Division, arguing that her decision could cause “grave and irreparable damage and injury” to it.
In throwing out Foodpanda’s petition, the Cagayan de Oro City-based NLRC body, presided by Commissioner Elbert Restauro, said the supposed harm of Jumao-as’ decision to the company “is a mere conjecture.”
“In the absence of sufficient evidence demonstrating the alleged confiscatory effect of the categorization of the complainant-appellees as employees, it is incorrect for respondent-appellant that this is unduly oppressive to their business,” the NLRC pointed out.
It added: “Certainly, while the Constitution protects property rights, respondent-appellant must accept that the state is bound under the Constitution to afford full protection to labor.”
By affirming that there exists an employer-employee relationship between Foodpanda and its delivery riders, the NLRC also affirmed the money claims awarded to the complainants to compensate for the financial harm due to their illegal dismissal.
In its ruling, the NLRC acknowledged Foodpanda’s “crucial role and its invaluable support to our economy during recent times.”
But it stressed that “when conflicting interests of labor and capital are to be weighed on the scales of social justice, the heavier influence of the latter should be counterbalanced with the sympathy and compassion the law accords the less privileged workingman.”
“In the still raging war against COVID-19, we take judicial notice of the fact that food delivery riders have repeatedly been alluded to as heroes for enabling us to abide by physical distancing and other health protocols, while, at the same time, bolstering the economy. Nevertheless, while they have been hailed as heroes, they have not been always treated as such,” the ruling stated.
“As heroes, they should, at the very least, be able to demand minimum labor standard benefits, e.g. minimum wage, service incentive leave, right to organize and collective bargain, and security of tenure provided under Philippine laws,” it added.
The ruling was penned by Commissioners Sittie Phamy Cader-Coding, and concurred in by Restauro and Commissioner Rosario Bernardo-Sagaral.
In a statement on Wednesday, Foodpanda said it was “awaiting the formal notification on our appeal.”
“Meanwhile, we remain committed to having continuous dialogues with our Ka-panda delivery partners, to provide them the support they need as we serve our vendor partners, customers and community,” it added.
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