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Motorcycle delivery riders, more essential than ever, have seen job security elude them

By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

ARIES JAY C. DE GUIA, 28, a motorcycle delivery rider in Valenzuela City, considers himself lucky these days to clear P500 a day — less than half of what he used to earn before the pandemic, and below the prevailing minimum wage for Metro Manila.

Mr. De Guia said before the crisis he typically had four to seven bookings a day, peaking at 13 during busy periods. Now demand has turned uneven, and he is down to two or three.

The ordinary risks undertaken by delivery couriers, like road hazards or scam orders, have only multiplied during the pandemic, but their plight has become a grim struggle for survival, at a time when their services have never been more essential.

The National Wages and Productivity Commission pegs the daily minimum wage rate for the National Capital Region at between P500 to P537, highlighting the precarious employment arrangements for delivery couriers, rooted in hiring practices that have proved hard to eradicate.

Raul M. Francia, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Information and Publication Service Director, said in a mobile phone message that motorcycle delivery drivers are engaged via contracts of service.

“They have no employee-employer relationship. Therefore, they don’t enjoy job security,” Mr. Francia said.

On Nov. 18, riders of a food delivery service protested outside the DoLE office in Intramuros, Manila, alleging unfair labor practices.

At a Senate hearing on the DoLE 2021 budget, Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva said the problem was the absence of guidelines for employing delivery riders, owing to the “new economy” nature of the work.

Mr. Villanueva said such workers, at minimum, need to be granted basic benefits such as Social Security System (SSS) and PhilHealth coverage.

In a mobile phone message, transport expert Rene S. Santiago said the labor problems are akin to the long-running struggle to wean the jeepney industry from the infamous “boundary” system.

“No benefits, no security, mostly no SSS coverage. Our existing labor laws are obsolete when it comes to the digital age,” Mr. Santiago said.

Ride hailing and delivery company Grab Philippines said it provided its motorcycle and car drivers alternative sources of income during the early months of the lockdown.

In April, the company said drivers with its GrabCar service transitioned to the delivery business after consumers were unable to move around due to movement restrictions.

“With public transportation being suspended following the announcement of the enhanced community quarantine, Grab has been able to offer virtual training to its GrabCar driver-partners and quickly on boarded them as GrabFood, Grab Express, and GrabMart delivery-partners for the time being,” the company said.

In a mobile phone message, Angkas Chief Transport Advocate George I. Royeca also said the company now sees an entrenched place for its delivery businesses like Angkas Padala and Angkas Pabili.

“Delivery will definitely still be a part of our ecosystem, although our core competence really focuses more on transportation,” Mr. Royeca said.

Mr. Santiago said motorcycle delivery is here to stay “as sellers and buyers get used to online trading,” calling the segment “the bright star of an economy in recession and in recovery.”

Mr. De Guia said he will continue with motorcycle delivery not just because of need, but also, despite the many issues, “this makes me happy.”

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