Bello to meet Food Panda riders to hear their complaints

Published November 18, 2020, 9:23 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday vowed to meet Food Panda riders about their concerns on the alleged unfair labor practice that the mobile food delivery service has implemented.


“It has come to the attention of the Office of the Secretary that they would want to sit down and ask for a dialogue and the Secretary behind me is committing himself that he would meet them soon,” Senator Joel Villanueva said during the Senate’s plenary debates on the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Villanueva spoke for Bello as he sponsored the DOLE’s allocation for next year.

In his interpellation of the department’s proposed budget, Sen. Richard Gordon asked about the protest of Food Panda riders Wednesday morning in front of the DOLE office in Intramuros, Manila. The riders complained about Food Panda’s new system that has reportedly resulted in reduced income for them.

“What protection are we giving these Food Panda drivers?…Do they have SSS, PhilHealth, and other protection? Do they have extra pay during holidays, or are they supported during calamities?” Gordon asked.

In response, Villanueva said DOLE officials admitted that “there are no specific guidelines” concerning their employment “as this particular industry is somehow a new economy.”

The riders, however, are covered by the benefits under the Social Security System (SSS) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), he said.

“We have to give certain definitions to allow a healthy respect for what we call new industries that are sprouting and define what the relationship is and what kind of rights they may have…Because this is part of the new economy, especially during the pandemic where it has proliferated,” Gordon said.

Villanueva said he and Bello agree.

In a statement, Food Panda said it has communicated its new payment structure for its freelance food delivery riders before they implemented it last June.

Under the new scheme, riders are compensated based on delivery distance, “making the payment structure more organized and fair”, the company said.

The riders, on the other hand, said the changes negatively affected their earnings and working conditions.

“Pay is tied to bookings which are affected by so-called ‘grades.’ But the grading system is opaque. Grades have fallen due to changes in the system which penalize riders. Pay has also been reduced per delivery due to a new system,” said Angelo Sta. Maria of Food Panda Riders Association (FPRA).

The riders said they are hoping that Food Panda would revert to the old system of giving their freelancers flexibility.

Food Panda assured its riders that it will look into their concerns.