Is this the future of work? Grab Philippines terminates delivery riders to silence concerns about insecurity and abuse

Is this the future of work? Grab Philippines terminates delivery riders to silence concerns about insecurity and abuse

With all the talk about “the future of work”, there is no doubt that tens of millions digital platform workers will be a vital part of that future. But will they have the fundamental human rights and freedoms that all workers are entitled to? Grab Philippines seems to think the answer is, No.

In response to a peaceful rally organized by the United Riders of the Philippines – Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa – International Union of Food (RIDERS – SENTRO – IUF) in Pampanga, Grab Philippines summarily terminated two riders, Mark Larson Vallejo and Mary Rose Cenidoza.

The rally was one of many peaceful rallies organized by RIDERS – SENTRO – IUF across the Philippines to draw attention to the insecurity, unfair treatment and lack of protection faced by delivery riders.

Instead of responding to these concerns by engaging with the union, Grab Philippines management (not the algorithm) decided to terminate Vallejo and Cenidoza as punishment for speaking out. But the action by Grab Philippines proved the point: delivered riders are vulnerable to unfair, arbitrary punishment, and have no job protection.

This cannot become the future of work, where digital platforms earning billions claim they are creating jobs and improving livelihoods, while passing all the risk to workers through harsh working conditions, unbearable stress, and irregular and unstable incomes. In fact this fear and insecurity – and not artificial intelligence or algorithms – seem to be the primary management tool for these digital platform companies.

RIDERS – SENTRO – IUF was formed by delivery riders in the Philippines to fight against such a future and to make these essential jobs safe, secure and decently paid. If Grab Philippines is to have any kind of future it must reinstate Vallejo and Cenidoza, listen to the concerns raised in these peaceful rallies, and talk to the union. Only then will there be a possibility that the future of work for tens of millions of digital platform workers will be decent work.

 

RIDERS – SENTRO – IUF Statement Calling for the Reinstatement of Mark Larson Vallejo and Mary Rose Cenidoza

Support Your Riders, Not Punish Them:

The freedom of speech and expression is one of the most important values in any society.  All Filipinos have the right to speak up against abuse, injustice, and unfairness without any fear of retaliation, including the termination of employment. In fact, companies that would rather harass and terminate their workers for speaking up for their needs and concerns than address these demonstrates their disregard for the wellbeing of their employees, the very same people that they praise as essential partners and part of their corporate families.

The United Riders of the Philippines – Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa – International Union of Food (RIDERS – SENTRO – IUF) condemns grabs brazen and groundless termination of Mark Larson Vallejo and Mary Rose Cenidoza both delivery riders of Grab Philippines in Pampanga. Their termination, based only on the vague insinuation of “violating” Grab’s Code of Conduct via text, even committing a “fraud-related issue” according to the Grab app is simply an act of intimidation.

Clearly, the termination was done purely to punish Vallejo and Cenidoza for standing up for their fellow riders and demanding just protection and support for the vital work that they do for Grab and the thousands that rely on the platform’s services.

RIDERS – SENTRO – IUF demands the immediate reinstatement of Vallejo, Cenidoza and the end to Grab management’s harassment of its workers. If Grab is serious in its commitment both to provide quality services to its patrons, and the safeguarding of its riders, then the company must prove this in practice – support your riders, not punish them.

For social protection to be effective it must empower women, advance workers’ rights and redistribute wealth

For social protection to be effective it must empower women, advance workers’ rights and redistribute wealth

There is no doubt that social protection can contribute to creating an enabling environment in which workers can improve their livelihoods and ensure stable incomes and safe work. This is especially important for workers engaged in small-scale fisheries and agriculture, and for marginal farmers, informal sector workers and home-based workers. The greater the physical, social and economic vulnerability, the greater the need for social protection. Yet at the same time, the greater the physical, social and economic vulnerability, the less access these workers have to social protection. This inverse correlation between vulnerability and access to social protection is prevalent in all sectors and is especially evident among informal sector workers and migrant workers.

Calling for more social protection is not a solution in and of itself. Taking the example of the fisheries sector, social protection can be effective in ensuring access to rights and improving the livelihoods and wellbeing of fishers, farmers and fisheries workers. But its effectiveness depends on rights, process and resource allocation.

The direct involvement of women workers in decision-making is essential for social protection to be effective in reducing poverty and improving livelihoods. The involvement of women cannot be symbolic or passive (women as targets of social protection instruments). It is not based on the inclusion of gender perspectives and gender-based approaches alone, but the inclusion of women themselves. Women workers must be able to collectively represent themselves in the workplaces, farms and communities – and at all levels of decision-making, planning and implementation – for social protection to be effective and truly equitable.

Women will ensure that social protection is meaningful and effective through their direct, collective representation in decision-making in the allocation and distribution of public resources; and continuous assessment and monitoring to ensure transparency, fairness and reach. If decision-making is dominated by men, then not only is there a greater likelihood that social protection will be ineffective and limited in its scope and reach, there is also a greater likelihood of discrimination, abuse and corruption. The erosion of existing social protection programs due to corruption remains a serious challenge in the region.

Adding more resources for social protection to broken, unaccountable and opaque institutions simply sets us up for failure. While new technologies could play an important role, fundamental institutional reforms are needed. The most important of which is the direct, collective participation of women workers in decision-making. In India, the most effective use of social protection under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) occurs where independent, democratic unions led by women are involved in organizing, policy intervention and decision-making. These unions ensure that women secure their rights under NREGA, while also engaging with local authorities to ensure the appropriate, fair and effective use of NREGA resources.

The direct, collective involvement and representation of women in decision-making assumes that women can exercise the  right to freedom of association guaranteed under ILO Convention No 87. (Also important are ILO Convention Nos 11, 141 and 177 on the right of agricultural workers to organize; rural workers’ organizations; and home-based workers). Women can combine together in an organization of their own choosing, represent their collective interests and engage in collective bargaining and decision-making. Any restrictions on freedom of association or barriers that impede women’s access to these enabling rights prevents their involvement, which in turn undermines the effectiveness of social protection policies and programs.

Restrictions on or impediments to the ability of women workers, farmers and fishers to organize themselves also exacerbate the economic and social vulnerability of women. This leads to increased exploitation and abuse – including trafficking and forced labour – which renders social protection both inadequate and meaningless.

In terms of the allocation of resources, social protection should not indirectly subsidize the large-scale commercial fisheries industry. The poverty wages of fisheries workers on vessels and in factories perpetuates poverty in their communities – communities often located in and around commercial fisheries operations. On September 3, 2022, the 4th National Fishworkers Congress in the Philippines established the link between building fisheries workers’ power and a sustainable fishing industry. In this context the Fishworkers Congress identified poverty, debt and lack of access to human rights (food and nutrition, housing, education and health care) as the direct consequence of poverty wages in the private commercial fisheries sector. Orchestrated efforts by employers to prevent union organizing, and repeated violations of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining guaranteed under ILO Conventions Nos 87 and 98, prevent fisheries workers from collectively bargaining to secure better wages and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Collective bargaining in the private commercial fisheries sector to achieve better wages and livelihoods must remain a priority and government financed social protection should not inadvertently subsidize an industry that suppresses rights and perpetuates poverty wages.

Serious and widespread violations of workers’ health and safety rights in the fisheries sector contravene ILO Convention No 155, which is now a fundamental convention. Several members of the fishing community participating in the 4th National Fishworkers Congress in the Philippines described the serious injuries suffered by fishers in the private commercial fishing sector due to unsafe work practices. Unsafe work causes greater injury, long-term illness and inability to work, which in turn increases the burden on social protection programs.

In the Maldives, for example, our affiliate BKMU has the capacity to negotiate catch prices that will increase the incomes and livelihoods of fishers and their families and communities, including migrant workers. However, the new Industrial Relations Bill currently before the parliament threatens to undermine BKMU’s ability to organize and collectively bargain. In the absence of collective bargaining rights, buying companies maintain a monopsony and can manipulate catch prices and reduce the incomes of BKMU members. This results in greater poverty and debt in the communities dependent on these incomes. Turning to social protection is not the answer. The answer in the commercial fisheries sector lies in the exercise of collective bargaining rights to redistribute profit, not the redirection of public resources through social protection.

Social protection is needed most in artisanal fisheries, small-scale extensive aquaculture, the informal sector and home-based work, as well as coastal and inland fishing communities experiencing climate vulnerability. It is a vital part of the strategies needed to urgently address child labour in artisanal fisheries and aquaculture.

The vulnerability of coastal fishing communities to climate change, biodiversity loss and declining aquatic species is a serious concern throughout the region. This has a significant impact on livelihoods and incomes as well as local food security. The effectiveness of social protection depends on a more coherent and comprehensive policy approach that integrates environmental protection and rights. This includes the right of fisherfolk to collective representation in decision-making and the right to food and nutrition. It also needs action by governments to stop industrial pollution killing their livelihoods.

The question of resources also relates to the prevalence of government subsidies for large-scale commercial fishing, especially distant water fishing (DWF). DWF has a significant impact on scarce aquatic resources and threatens to reduce the availability of ocean caught fisheries. This in turn threatens the livelihoods and food security of fishing communities. If left unaddressed, government subsidies for large-scale commercial fishing and DWF fleets will create greater poverty, debt and food insecurity in coastal fishing communities and especially among traditional and indigenous fisherfolk. This then creates the (avoidable) need for more social protection. Yet the effectiveness of this social protection will be continuously undermined as long as the extractive subsidies for the commercial fishing industry continues.

It is in this sense that social protection to secure an equitable “blue transformation” in the fisheries sector requires a significant reallocation of public resources and recognition of workers’ rights. We not only need to increase government funded social protection, but to reduce subsidies for economic activities detrimental to the environment, livelihoods and incomes, and food security. In addition to this, social protection must be financed through a greater allocation of public resources, which places priority on reduced support for extractive or destructive industries, and increased corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy.

Ultimately social protection must redistribute wealth if any transformation is to be truly equitable and sustainable.

No sign of Danone’s “social enterprise” in Bangladesh – management hides company name instead of resolving rights abuse

No sign of Danone’s “social enterprise” in Bangladesh – management hides company name instead of resolving rights abuse

When workers formed a union at Danone’s factory in Bangladesh for the first time in January 2022, they believed it was an opportunity to finally secure the decent benefits and wages that a “social enterprise” is supposed to represent. Instead they faced a backlash from management that escalated with the termination on September 12 of an active union member, Mohammad Shahabuddin, who management had chosen to victimize in February to set an example to other workers.

While the union wrote to management and repeatedly sought negotiations to resolve the dispute, management (which refuses to keep written records as a business practice) did not reply. Management did nothing to avoid the escalation to protest actions. Instead, a day before the protest, security personnel at the factory were ordered to remove the company sign. Hiding Danone’s brand name took priority over fairness and rights.

 

Danone’s “social enterprise” in Bangladesh fails workers as management undermines trade union rights

Danone’s “social enterprise” in Bangladesh fails workers as management undermines trade union rights

The newly formed Danone Workers Union in Bangladesh launched protest actions on October 1, 2022, after months of attacks on worker and trade union rights by local management.

When workers formed a union for the first time January 2022, local management intervened to prevent its formation. Despite the company’s opposition the union was legally registered by the labour department. Every action by management since has shown that the Danone global policies and proclaimed commitments on worker and trade union rights don’t apply in Bangladesh.

Just a month after the union was formed, two active members were targeted and victimized with false charges of misconduct designed to scare workers away from the union. One of the victimized union members was Mohammad Shahabuddin. With no evidence or basis at all for the fabricated allegations, management was forced to withdraw the charges.

The union then submitted a collective bargaining proposal that includes recognition of trade union rights, improved benefits and wage increases that would potentially lift workers out of poverty. Although management agreed to collective bargaining negotiations, senior HR management refused to allow a written record of the meetings.

In a company that claims far-reaching and extensive accountability, the refusal of local management to maintain written records of meetings raises serious concerns. More so because Danone claims to be a “social enterprise”.

To undermine the union’s collective bargaining efforts and repeated demands for a written record of these meetings, management again filed false charges against Mohammad Shahabuddin and two others in August. Local management’s failure to make an example of Mohammad Shahabuddin in February led to a more aggressive attack on workers’ rights seven months later.

With complete disregard for legal compliance, management formed an internal inquiry committee to investigate the claims against Mohammad Shahabuddin. The senior HR manager who tried to terminate him in February chaired the committee. Despite the legal right to union representation, Mohammad Shahabuddin, management appointed his representative.

The union fought to exercise the legal right to represent Mohammad Shahabuddin. Local management initially refused, but finally relented after the union escalated the issue of an illegal inquiry process. However, the senior HR manager then issued findings without any opportunity for Mohammad Shahabuddin to be represented by his union representatives. Despite this clear violation of the law, Mohammad Shahabuddin was terminated with a letter back-dated to September 12, 2022. This time management at Danone’s “social enterprise” could made its message to all workers very clear.

The union sent a protest letter on September 23 which management ignored. As a result the union launched protest actions on October 1.

 

 

No more delays, justice now! Unions demand accountability for the killing and violence faced by trade union leaders and organizers in the Philippines

No more delays, justice now! Unions demand accountability for the killing and violence faced by trade union leaders and organizers in the Philippines

As the Philippines government continues to ignore ILO recommendations to address serious trade union rights violations in the country and fails to investigate the killing of trade unionists and violence against unions, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) once again postponed a high level ILO tripartite mission to the country.

The Council of Global Unions (CGU) Pilipinas held a protest action at DOLE on September 9, denouncing the delays that effectively deny workers the right to freedom of association and fail to hold the perpetrators of violence against trade unionists accountable. This only increases the sense of impunity of those orchestrating violence against union leaders, organizers and members, and perpetuates the climate of fear. In dozens of cases the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has been clear about this environment of fear:

A free and independent trade union movement can only develop in a climate free of violence, threats and pressure, and it is for the Government to guarantee that trade union rights can develop normally.

The actions of the Philippines government – essentially its inaction – creates uncertainty among workers throughout the Philippines about whether they really can form and join unions without fear of violence, intimidation and punishment. It is a fundamental principle of all human rights that the realization of rights is premised on certainty. The certainty that we have these rights and can exercise them.

The inaction and delays of the Philippines government are unacceptable and must condemned by the international trade union movement.

 

COUNCIL OF GLOBAL UNIONS (CGU) PILIPINAS PRESSS RELEASE

Global unions press DOLE to jail killers of workers; stop attacks vs. unions, workers

Council of Global Unions (CGU)-Pilipinas

9 September 2022

The Council of Global Unions (CGU)-Pilipinas marched to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Intramuros today to demand accountability for the killing and other forms of violence that trade union leaders and organizers have been experiencing.

In a letter addressed to Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, CGU Pilipinas scored the DOLE for “the very slow pace by which the Department is acting on the very sorry and serious state of freedom of association in the country.”

CGU Pilipinas has learned that the DOLE has formally asked the International Labour Organization (ILO) to move the High Level Tripartite Mission (HLTM) to the Philippines to look into the serious violations to ILO Convention 87 to early 2023 instead of this month.

“We find this unacceptable as moving the HLTM yet again delays the HLTM by three and a half years, without regard for Filipino trade union leaders and organizers who continue to get killed, arbitrarily arrested, red-tagged or who continue to disappear, thereby disregarding civil liberties, human rights and trade union rights with impunity,” said CGU-Pilipinas, composed of the Philippine affiliates of the global union federations and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC),

At the budget hearing yesterday, labor groups wanted Congress to add to the budget of the DOLE which was drastically reduced by 49%

“We want more budget for hiring more labor inspectors and strengthening labor inspection with the direct participation of deputized worker-inspectors, investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the killings and unabated violence against workers, and making them accountable,” CGU-Pilipinas said.

The Philippines is still in the notorious list of the Ten Worst Countries for Workers to live in, according to the International Trade Union Conference Rights Index for the past six years.

“Government has failed to resolve the cases of killings of workers and prosecute those responsible—especially state forces—for the killings, violence, harassment and red-tagging of trade unions, leaders and organizers. Government inaction has also created an environment where irresponsible employers have become bolder in busting unions and not recognizing trade unions,” CGU Pilipinas said.

The group also scored how the DOLE seems to have endorsed the blatantly anti-union activities of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC).

“Our members have reported how they have been (forcibly) invited by the NTF-ELCAC to trade union orientation sessions through their employers and in the presence of DOLE officials. The NTF-ELCAC bad mouths labor federations, calls strikes and protest actions as terrorist activities and threatens trade union leaders so they may renounce membership to trade unions they freely joined and formed,” CGU Pilipinas said.

“The NTF-ELCAC should be abolished, and its budget for seminars should be appropriated for trade union education and training that are run by trade unions themselves,” CGU Pilipinas said.

Among the members of the CGU-Pilipinas are the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and SENTRO, who are affiliated to the ITUC; and the Philippine affiliates of the Public Services International (PSI), Education International (EI) and UNI Global, who are the Pubic Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and UNI – Philippine Liaison Council respectively. Also signing on are Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE).

Digital platform food delivery riders strike in the Philippines, highlighting unfair and hazardous working conditions throughout the Asia-Pacific region

Digital platform food delivery riders strike in the Philippines, highlighting unfair and hazardous working conditions throughout the Asia-Pacific region

The newly formed Union of Delivery Riders in Digital Platforms-SENTRO-IUF launched strike action for the first time on July 11, 2022, in General Santos in the Philippines. The digital platform food delivery riders are demanding fair and just delivery earnings, an end to arbitrary and unfair suspension and terminations (including the “off-boarding” of riders’ accounts without due process), as well as calling for accident insurance coverage.

The strike action comes at a time when more digital platform food delivery riders are getting organized. While spontaneous protests and strikes have been common in Southeast Asia in recent years, organized protest increased during the pandemic. Designated as essential workers recognized as providing a vital service, they continue to be subject to the uncertainty and mental stress of malicious complaints leading to unfair punishment, and unexplained changes in earnings. This adds to the existing pressure of fast delivery times and unsafe working conditions, including road accidents and heat stress.

 

On June 26, 2022, digital platform food delivery riders joined restaurant workers and fast food workers in the IUF Asia/Pacific Regional Food Services Workers Meeting. Over 115 participants from six countries joined the meeting to discuss the challenges faced by food service workers despite being recognized as essential workers in the pandemic. The meeting identified the urgent need for more food service workers to form and join unions – including digital platform food delivery riders – to build the collective bargaining power needed to secure the stable, decent incomes and safe work that essential workers deserve.

PUBLIC STATEMENT

11 JULY 2022

“MGA DELIVERY RIDERS NAMAN!”

FAIR EARNINGS, STOPPAGE OF ILLEGAL OFF-BOARDING, ILLEGAL SUSPENSION and PROVISION OF ACCIDENT INSURANCE – UDRDP

Led by the Food Panda Delivery riders from General Santos, members of Union of Delivery Riders in Digital Platforms (UDRDP) the SENTRO and IUF City demands better working conditions by providing fair and just delivery earnings, stoppage of rampant suspension and termination (off-boarding) of riders account without due process and Accident Insurance.

Despite their equally important functions and the regular nature of their work, Food Panda delivery riders  more often get lower income and zero benefits; but have heavier workloads; are more prone to road and traffic hazards and sexual harassment or outright assaults from customers; and remains no employee-employer relationships with the delivery platforms – effectively denying them the economic benefits and political gains that may be enjoyed by regular workers, including the right to join a union and to receive additional rights and benefits from a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The UDRDP lamented that the Food Panda delivery riders are treated as “delivery-partners, free-lancers and independent contractors” which justify their lower wages, although they: work 12-15hrs a day; work within strict time limits (the company requires them to come to work at an appointed time, report their work-break by lunch time and go to a place it designates); and can be suspended or terminated by the food panda.

UDRDP also pointed out that some areas do not have designated waiting areas forcing the delivery riders to find shed under the trees, parking areas and besides the roads; do not have personal protective equipment and do not have regular road and traffic safety trainings. That this blatant disregard for or violation of occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) may result not only to temporary injury but also to permanent disability and death of the delivery riders.

Foremost of these demands are the regularization of employment of delivery riders, wages and benefits befitting their permanent work status, strict observance of OSHS, among others.

The UDRDP-SENTRO/IUF is set to hold more mobilizations until Food Panda heeds their demand to stop the illegal termination/off boarding and suspension of delivery riders and to sit down in a meeting with the union about the fair earnings and insurance.

UDRDP is the Union of Delivery Riders in Digital Platform which is affiliated to the national labor center SENTRO (Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa); and the Geneva-based IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations).