NLRC-Davao finds Foodpanda guilty of illegal termination of seven delivery riders

Foodpanda riders in Davao City. MindaNews photo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 July) – Foodpanda Philippines Inc. is guilty of illegally terminating last year seven delivery riders in Davao City who were denied access to the company’s rider platform for a period of 10 years or until June 13, 2031, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Davao City said.
 
In a 31-page resolution released to media on Friday, Labor Arbiter Rovyne G. Jumao-as declared 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 their inconsistent earnings they received as “service fees” from Foodpanda.
 
Although the campaign did not push through as complainants were reluctant to “forego of a day’s worth of income,” they were shocked to learn that they, along with 100 other riders, were suspended from accessing Foodpanda’s mobile application for their alleged participation in the planning of the supposed protest.
 
The arbiter 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.
 
“Complainants maintain that a number of suspended riders availed of the said program and [were] subsequently reinstated by Foodpanda, but as to complainants, they were not allowed to return to work because they were identified as the leaders of the disgruntled delivery riders,” Jumao-as said.
 
The arbiter dismissed the contention of Foodpanda that the riders were mere independent contractors.
 
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.”
 
She said Foodpanda reserves the right to accept or reject the applicants who would sign up online as evident in its “PH Data Privacy – Rider Privacy Policy,” which allows the company to keep records of the applicants to aid it in the selection of qualified riders.

“It is highly implausible that the applicant’s mere signing up and agreeing thereto is the operative act that admits the applicant as Foodpanda delivery driver, without any verification process and without Foodpanda’s approval,” she said.
 
She said “service fees” that riders received were actually salary or wage for their work, explaining that “what is decisive in ascertaining the existence of an employer-employee relationship is that the complainants received compensation from Foodpanda for services that they rendered.”
 
Jumao-as added that the “Freelance Agreement” signed by the riders with Foodpanda, is bilateral, granting power to both parties to terminate it.
 
She said the company conveniently exercises its power to discipline riders by restricting them access to the riders’ platform.
 
Under the agreement, the arbiter added that “Foodpanda may withdraw from time to time a rider’s access to the Foodpanda Rider planform if he fails to meet its high standards of professionalism, service, demeanor and courtesy, and may restrict or withdraw access thereto for violation of the terms of the agreement, any applicable laws and regulations, or any other action that may cause damage to Foodpanda, its vendors, and customers.”
 
She said the company also has 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)