Foodpanda vows dialogues with riders; says it has yet to receive NLRC decision on illegal termination

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 31 July) — Foodpanda Philippines Inc. has vowed to continue holding dialogues with its active partner “delivery freelancers” in the hopes of addressing their concerns as it claimed on Saturday that it has yet to receive a copy of the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Davao City, finding the company guilty of illegally terminating seven delivery riders last year. It said the seven were “regular employees” of Foodpanda, not freelance riders. 

“We have yet to receive Foodpanda’s copy of the decision said to have been issued by the NLRC,” it said. 

The statement said the company has been working “closely with our Ka Pandas to address their concerns regarding fuel price hikes and have been supporting them to augment their earnings through additional incentives in their quests, fuel discounts from our partner providers, and facilitating increased tipping through our app.”

“We are thankful to our Ka Pandas across the country for continuing to be valued freelance partners in serving our partner vendors and end-users,” it said.

Foodpanda riders in Davao City. MindaNews file photo

In its 31-page ruling, the NLRC declared the seven delivery riders of Foodpanda as regular employees, not just independent contractors, and as such could not be dismissed from service without valid cause and due process.

Foodpanda has been ordered to pay P2.223 million, consisting of back wages and separation pay, to Edmund D. Carrillo, Francis Ghlenn S. Costan, Nerjhun H. Claramon, Manuel D. Lapiña, Roberto J. Gonzaga, Jeffrey G. Cabusas, and Nawar S. Solaiman.

Last year, the terminated delivery riders were accused of initiating a “No Show” campaign, urging other riders not to show up on their assigned schedule in protest of the inconsistent earnings they received as “service fees” from Foodpanda.

Carrillo and fellow complainants said they earned 500 to 600 pesos per day for an eight-hour work from 2018 to 2020 but Foodpanda allegedly did not provide them any computation of their share for every completed delivery, and that they only knew of their daily earnings through the Foodpand Rider Platform or their mobile application.”

“Inconsistent earnings”

The complainants, according to the decision, narrated that during the first quarter of 2021, they started questioning the calculation of their earnings particularly because on some days “they only earned a measly 200 pesos per workday in the same eight-hour schedule with the same volume of deliveries and in some other days their earnings fluctuated to 600 pesos per day.” 

The complainants said the 200 peso earning was not enough for fuel expenses “which were at their account” so they attempted four times to ask management but got no reply.

The complainants met in July 2021 to decide on what options to take. Among the suggestions was to conduct a “No Show” on their assigned schedules but “complainants collectively decided against it since it would mean that they would forego of a day’s worth of income.”

Although the “no show” proposal did not push through, they were “shocked” to learn that they, along with 100 other riders, were suspended from accessing Foodpanda’s mobile application for 10 years, from July 13, 2021 to July 13, 2031.

On July 19, 2021, the complainants received an invitation from Foodpanda for a dialogue but their demands were turned down.  They then filed a complaint before the NLRC. 

Employer-employee relationship

Labor Arbiter Rovyne G. Jumao-as said the firm subsequently established a Whistleblower Program via Google forms and encouraged suspended riders from reporting the persons behind the campaign in exchange for reinstatement.

In establishing the existence of employer-employee relationship,  Jumao-as made an extensive evaluation based on the “selection and engagement of the employee, the payment of wages, the power to discipline and dismiss, and the employer’s power to control the employee with respect to the means and methods by which the work is to be accomplished.”

Citing a Supreme Court decision, Jumao-as said the “power of control is regarded as the most significant determinant of the existence of an employer-employee relationship.”

She said the company retains power of control over the riders, distinguishing them from an independent contractor.

“It is hardly convincing that Foodpanda will not and did not control the means and methods of its delivery service performed by its delivery riders,” she said.

She added Foodpanda designs and controls, among others, the scheduling of their work, the system of assigning orders, of passing a delivery job from a rider to another in any case when the former is unable to complete the delivery job, and of ensuring the delivery within its prescribed time frame.

She said Foodpanda also employs a rating system which primarily governs its relationship and dealings with its riders, and it also monitors the whereabouts of its riders through a global positioning system.

“It shows that Foodpanda evaluates the rider’s performance every week and those with higher batch scores can have additional benefits of earning incentives and better opportunity in shift selection,” she said.

She said “Foodpanda can and will conveniently deny riders, perceived to be in violation of its standards or rules, access to the apps thus denying him work opportunity.”

“With these, no workers are as closely monitored on the field with serious and instantaneous consequences as these workers, that the power of control is so remarkably evident,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)