Food delivery workers to be granted better protection: official

UberEATS and Foodpanda both expressed regrets about the accidents and vowed to work with the police and assist survivors of the two delivery men. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Food delivery people at UberEATS and Foodpanda should be treated as official employees and given stronger protections, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said Monday amid scrutiny of labor laws after the deaths of two delivery men.

Questions have been raised about the labor practices of the food delivery platforms after UberEATS and Foodpanda delivery people were killed in separate traffic accidents over the past three days.

The two had different levels of insurance protection because of the different structures of their companies resulting in part from the lack of a formal labor-management framework defining whether the platforms are contractors or employers.

The Labor Ministry is inspecting the seven food delivery companies in Taiwan, and determined Monday after inspections of UberEATS and Foodpanda that they are employers rather than contractors, contrary to how the two platforms define themselves.

Tsou Tzu-lien (鄒子廉), the head of the OSHA under the Labor Ministry, announced that delivery people for these companies are in fact employees but are deemed contract workers and denied the benefits employees should receive.

Tsou explained that delivery people at UberEATS and Foodpanda are assigned to work specific hours or stand by, wear uniforms and use company logos on their vehicles.

“The companies have a certain degree of power to command and supervise their delivery people,” Tsou said.

Following the finding, the administration had not yet issued a formal directive requiring UberEATS and Foodpanda to treat their delivery people as employees but was hoping its comments would coax the companies to do more.

To put pressure on UberEATS and Foodpanda, the government will ask the platforms to provide information required by law for employer-employee relations.

Tsou said the platforms must provide the names of their workers, their salary schemes and work schedules to labor authorities or face a penalty of NT$1.75 million (US$57,100).

This requirement, in which platforms have to keep records for their workers, could translate to better insurance policies for the workers, who are currently not covered by labor insurance even though they are in a high risk job in which they rush through traffic to make more deliveries and increase earnings.

UberEATS and Foodpanda both expressed regrets about the accidents and vowed to work with the police and assist survivors of the two delivery men.

Currently, however, the two companies have different operating styles and applying different insurance policies.

UberEATS, like ride-hailing service Uber, is registered as an information services firm and working with local logistics companies to contract the deliveries.

UberEATS said it is up to the companies to decide what insurance policies to apply based on individual needs.

It said, however, that in addition to having their workers covered by compulsory automobile liability insurance — compulsory for all vehicles on the road — logistics operators in Kaohsiung, Pingtung and Taoyuan cover their workers with employers compensation insurance.

The compensation insurance could cover costs incurred in accidents that cause deaths or injuries to workers and financial losses.

Foodpanda itself is a logistics operator and said it already has “insurance polices better than fellow service providers.”

All of its food delivery workers are covered by compulsory automobile liability insurance and employers compensation insurance, Foodpanda said, and it has also taken out insurance policies covering the losses of a third party involved in an accident.

Neither company had commented on the government’s latest announcement on their labor-management relations as of Monday night.

According to the Labor Ministry earlier in the day, among the seven food delivery platforms currently operating in Taiwan, three — Foodpanda, UberEATS and Lalamove — claim they do not have employment relations with their deliverers.

The remaining four, meanwhile, see their deliverers as employees and therefore take out labor insurance, the ministry said.

The ministry said it will soon inspect the other five companies, but indicated that whether they are deemed employers or contractors, they will all have to take out labor insurance for their people.

Labor insurance is mandatory for all workers in Taiwan and compensates workers for disabilities and deaths suffered on the job and provides small pensions after they retire.

On Oct. 10, a 29-year-old Foodpanda delivery man surnamed Ma (馬) was killed when his scooter collided with a truck driven by a 25-year-old man surnamed Tseng (曾) at 11 p.m. in Taoyuan, police said.

Three days later, a 20-year-old deliverer of UberEATS surnamed Huang (黃) was killed after his scooter was rammed by a car in Taipei’s Shilin District at around 6 p.m.

By Lee Hsin-Yin