The National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) is working on proposals over the next few months to see how the union can ensure adequate protection for delivery riders by working with the government, as well as partnering delivery companies.
Speaking to Mothership during a doorstop interview on Aug. 26, NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng said the protections that the union will be proposing include fairer terms and conditions for delivery riders, better workplace conditions and safety, and also medical benefits.
He added that the best and sustainable way to protect workers is by creating a "win-win-win" situation across the board by the government, the union, and companies.
At the moment, Ng said these delivery riders cannot be unionised by NTUC as they are still legally under the self-employed persons (SEPs), and that NTUC will have to find ways to innovate themselves.
Riders shared their concerns
Ng, together with Member of Parliament, Yeo Wan Ling, who is also director of NTUC's enterprise arm U SME, spoke to several delivery riders from different companies in Ang Mo Kio and they shared with the duo some of their concerns.
Ng said most of the riders touched on the lack of medical benefits and insurance coverage.
One rider shared with Ng that assistance will only come if he or she is sick for more than five days, and such top line articulation of medical coverage is insufficient.
They also shared with Ng and Yeo about varying incentives and rates without them having any control at all.
Ng added that Central Provident Fund (CPF) was also an issue raised by the delivery riders.
Ng noted that NTUC can step in and help deal with issues in these areas.
Delivery riders "in a gray zone"
Yeo described the delivery riders to be in a "gray zone" and more "employee-like" rather than self-employed persons.
She explained that self-employed persons usually "are their own bosses".
There are more things that they have to take care of themselves, including their insurance, long-term planning and retirement, and they are also able to set their terms for their businesses, such as how much to charge customers and working hours.
However, delivery workers are not exactly self-employed for several reasons.
Ng highlighted that one differentiating factor that distinguishes delivery workers from self-employed persons is that this delivery riders do not have a profit-making motive in mind, whereas self-employed persons do.
Yeo further elaborated that delivery riders are price-takers, as they do not set their own prices and terms for their services.
She added that the delivery platforms do not take care of the welfare of delivery riders fully as they are deemed as self-employed.
As more people want to become gig workers, Yeo said it is important for the union to look at this growing group and make sure that the ground is fair so that they are taken care of, protected and represented.
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Top image screenshot via Mothership video