SG Climate Rally Congratulates Foodpanda Delivery Riders in Hong Kong
for Making Significant Improvements in Struggle for Better Pay, Conditions, and Dignity
On 18th November 2021, after a seven hour long meeting at Foodpanda’s headquarters in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, Foodpanda operations director Pedro Dias and 27-year-old food delivery rider Waqas Firda shook hands.
Foodpanda delivery riders in Hong Kong reached a deal on pay packages with Foodpanda, bringing an end to a labour dispute that sparked a two-day strike involving 200 delivery riders. According to Firda, “they gave us a very good package and we’ve done our best to get what we want.”
The strike began on 13th November, in response to riders seeing their incomes slashed as a result of the company’s continuous cuts to the minimum base fee per delivery, despite working 10-12 hours a day and 6-7 days a week to make a decent living. For instance, the delivery minimum fee for each motorbike order was cut from HK$50 (S$8.76) to $45 (S$7.89), while the fee for delivery on foot was cut from HK$35 (S$6.13) to HK$28 (S$4.91). The company previously announced further cuts of HK$40 (S$7.01) and HK$22 (S$3.86) respectively effective on November 15. Seeing no end to the fee decrease, the riders finally reached a boiling point and organised a strike.
SGCR notes that the riders in Hong Kong listed 15 demands including, but not limited to, implementing a minimum order fee of HK$50 (S$8.76) for riders and HK$30 (S$5.26) for walkers and cyclists. We stand in full solidarity with the riders in Hong Kong to have all 15 demands accepted by Foodpanda.
Foodpanda’s regional headquarters is based in Singapore and riders here also face similar issues. For example, one Singaporean rider told Channel News Asia that while she used to earn S$7 per order before, she now earns S$3-S$4, a near 50% decrease per order. Many riders in Singapore also share 6-day work weeks, often working 10-12 hours a day and experiencing long waiting times at restaurants with similar issues with compensation.
Similar to gig workers worldwide, the Foodpanda delivery riders in Hong Kong are not guaranteed any base pay per hour and do not have adequate job security or insurance coverage, so they are pressured to complete as many orders as possible, regardless of the weather and road conditions. While delivery platforms have raked in ever-increasing revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic, workers have had to bear greater risks and have seen falling wages with changing pay structures. Just weeks ago, Grab became a publicly listed company and its CEO is expected to become a billionaire. Meanwhile, riders have little means of appeal against the lack of transparency of delivery app algorithms, unreasonable delivery targets or unfair account terminations.
As environmentalists fighting for a transition to clean energy that is fair to the many and not the few, SGCR is inspired by the achievements of the Foodpanda delivery riders in Hong Kong. Much like in Singapore, the riders in Hong Kong do not have their own unions or associations. Nor did the strike occur overnight. For months, riders had been speaking to one another about their work conditions in-person and via group chats. Different groups of riders subsequently assumed various responsibilities for organising, publicising and negotiation. The riders in Hong Kong have gone on strike since as far back as 2018, with mixed success. While Foodpanda did not accept all 15 demands put forth by the riders, significant concessions were made. Due to the transnational nature of food delivery apps like Foodpanda and Grab, these achievements won by the riders in Hong Kong may also benefit riders around the region, including Singapore. It is imperative for us in Singapore to also support and stand in solidarity with these courageous riders in Hong Kong.
In SGCR, we believe that when ordinary people come together as a collective, we have the power to make positive change in our own communities. From the recent conclusion of COP 26, we have seen the limitations of deferring decisions to just a handful of elites. It is The People who are most affected by the climate crisis. It is only fair that The People have seats at the table discussing how we transition to green energy.
As Food delivery riders largely carry out work outdoors, they are extremely vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis (heavy rainfall and scorching weather causing riders workplace accidents and heat stress respectively). As it is The People who ensure our cities function, it is only reasonable that The People’s views on the green transition be taken seriously. Especially with movement restrictions during the pandemic, riders do the invaluable work of delivering to us all the meals we need to sustain us in our daily lives.
In the same way that Singapore food delivery riders resisted the PMD ban in 2019, the riders’ successful action in Hong Kong despite tightened security laws in the country, reminds us of the immense potential of people power and with it, the promise of an urgent, but fair transition.
Once again, SGCR congratulates the food delivery riders in Hong Kong who have fought long and hard for these gains in the struggle. As environmentalists in Singapore, we wish to express our full solidarity.