Villanueva pushes bill to protect freelancers amid woes of Foodpanda riders

Published July 19, 2021, 4:51 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday, July 19, called on his colleagues in the Congress to pass the bill that would protect freelance workers after the reported suspension of a number of food delivery riders who demanded better salaries.

Riders of online food delivery app Foodpanda in November, 2020 gather in front of the Department of Labor and Employment office in Intramuros, Manila to file a complaint on the company’s alleged unjust labor practices. (JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN File Photo)

Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment of Human Resources Development, said the plight of Foodpanda riders is a “labor dispute waiting to happen” that could be addressed by a law that recognizes the rights of freelancers.

Foodpanda Philippines suspended at least 30 of its riders in Davao City for joining a protest against the food delivery service provider’s wage policy.

The suspensions were reportedly effective for 10 years, with the firm saying that the riders broke their agreement for causing “disruptions in the operations that affect the wider ecosystem of resturant-partner and customers”.

“Ito pong problema ng mga rider ng food delivery service apps ay isang patunay sa matinding pangangailangan natin para sa itaguyod ang Freelancers Protection bill (This problem of food delivery service riders proves our need to pass the Freelancers Protection bill),” Villanueva said in a statement.

“Abonado na po sila madalas, at minsan nabibiktima pa ng mga fake booking. Kaunting minutong aberya lang sa daan, katakut-takot na insulto at pambabastos ang tinatanggap nila mula sa mga nag-order (They often pay using their own moent, and sometimes they fall victims to fake booking. And for a few minutes of delay on the road, they receive terrible insults from customers),” he added.

The senator endorsed for plenary approval the proposed Freelance Workers Protection Act (Senate Bill 1810) in September last year, in response to the changing business landscape as well as the COVID-19 pandemic which forced displaced workers to turn to freelancing.

He said the the Labor Code currently “does not recognize the existence of freelance workers.”

Under the bill, the hiring party and the freelance worker to enter into a written contract or “a document, whether electronic file or printed copy, reflecting the mutual consent of the parties to be bound by the terms and conditions of their freelance work engagement and the consideration for the services rendered by the freelancer.”

The measure also spells out the rights of freelance workers, including their rights to redress of grievances, as well as alternative dispute resolution processes, Villanueva said.

“Dapat po responsive ang ating mga batas sa mga pagbabago sa mga industriya at trabaho (Our laws should be responsive to the changes in industries and employment). If there are indeed 1.5 million freelancers, and if we factor in their families, this means there are more than six million Filipinos affected by our action or inaction on this matter, that’s why I’m appealing to our colleagues to see the urgency of this bill,” Villanueva told his fellow lawmakers.

In the meantime, Villanueva pressed the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to look into the plight of delivery service riders as this was not the first time that they complained.

In November last year, Foodpanda riders staged a similar protest at the DOLE headquarters in Manila to complain about the application’s alleged undue labor practices.