NLRC sides with delivery riders in Foodpanda dismissal case

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 Jan) – The National Labor and Relations Commission (NLRC) 8th Division affirmed the decision of the Labor Arbiter holding Foodpanda Philippines Inc. liable for illegally dismissing seven delivery riders who were declared as “regular workers.”

Foodpanda riders in Davao City. MindaNews photo

In a 19-page decision released to the media on Wednesday, the NLRC upheld Labor Arbiter’s comprehensive evaluation of employer-employee relationship between Foodpanda and delivery riders, establishing their status as regular workers, not just “independent contractors.”

The agency said Foodpanda’s suspension of the riders for 10 years is “tantamount to constructive dismissal.”

“The unusually long period of suspension is clearly a dismissal in disguise as the complainants-appellees or any one in their position would have felt compelled to give up his position under the circumstances,” it added.

Edmund Carillo, president of Davao United Delivery Riders Association Inc. (DUDRAI) and one of the complainants in the illegal dismissal case lodged against Foodpanda, said that the decision of NRLC is “an affirmation to us, that our struggles and our contributions amid the pandemic are seen.”

He said that their victory was also for the other riders, so that companies like Foodpanda will recognize their rights and give the benefits due them.

Carillo said the riders will fight it out even if the case will reach the Supreme Court.

Employing the four-fold test, the NLRC said Foodpanda exercises power of selection and engagement, payment of wages, power of dismissal or discipline, and power of control over the riders’ conduct.

It said “power of selection and engagement” is manifest as Foodpanda is “free to accept or decline engagement of an applicant based on its set of metrics” while the summary of weekly earnings and total earnings of the riders based on hours worked “is a substantial indicator of the payment of wages.”

It added that withdrawal of access to the Rider App is “punitive disciplinary measure rather than a preventive measure.”

“Considering that the withdrawal of access to Rider App were meted after FP’s (Foodpanda) delivery riders’ alleged violation, the measures alluded to by respondent FP is necessarily of its power to discipline,” the NLRC said.

The NLRC also examined circumstances that established Foodpanda’s exercise of the power of control over the delivery riders.

Such control is exercised by the company in designing and controlling the scheduling of their work, employing a rating system, evaluating the riders’ weekly performance, and monitoring the activities of its riders, among others.

“Through taking and processing of online data and GPS system, Foodpanda closely monitors the riders’ taking of delivery requests, routes, location, time of delivery, phone and SMS communication with the clients, and actual completion of delivery,” it said.

It added that the exercise of control is evidenced by several mobile application notifications addressed to the delivery riders during the process of delivery.

“The list of stringent rules that its riders must comply with under the pain of troublesome penalties are certainly an exercise of the power of control. These algorithmic punishments are badges of the power of control and discipline through the use of modern technology,” it said.

NLRC upheld Labor Arbiter’s award of money claims worth 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.

In 2021, 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.

According to the Labor Arbiter, 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. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)