Foodpanda rejects government definition of employment relationship
Taipei, Oct. 15 (CNA) Food delivery platform Foodpanda on Tuesday rejected a government assertion that it is the formal employer of those who deliver food using its platform, one day after the Labor Ministry made that claim following the deaths of two food couriers working for it and rival Uber Eats.
Subsidiary of German company Delivery Hero, Foodpanda said it is a contractor, although the ministry said the previous day, after conducting on-site labor inspections, that the two firms should cover labor insurances and other benefits for their workers because they do in fact serve as an employer within the labor-management framework.
Foodpanda said it undertook comprehensive research into labor laws in Taiwan before entering the market in 2012, and reiterated that its operations adhere to the letter of the law, whatever the ministry's assertions.
The company said it has invested billions of Taiwan dollars in the country, partnering with about 10,000 restaurants to provide services in 70 percent of Taiwan's cities and counties.
"We hope to work with the Ministry of Labor to put forth policies and protections that fit the 100,000 food delivery workers better, according to their existing working conditions," the platform said in a statement.
In response, Tsou Tzu-lien (鄒子廉), head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the Labor Ministry, said such a stance was one sided.
However, the ministry respects the companies' right to make further appeals, Tsou said.
Meanwhile, Uber Eats did not comment on the issue of employment relations, saying only in a statement that it will offer compensation in excess of labor insurance coverage to help the family of its deceased employee.
The company said it will work with the local logistics operators through which it hires people to provide them with better insurance policies.
Questions have been raised about the labor practices of food delivery platforms after Uber Eats and Foodpanda couriers were killed in separate traffic accidents last week.
On Oct. 10, a 29-year-old Foodpanda delivery man surnamed Ma (馬) was killed when his scooter collided with a truck driven by a 25-year-old man surnamed Tseng (曾) at 11 p.m. in Taoyuan, police said.
Three days later, a 20-year-old food courier for Uber Eats surnamed Huang (黃) was killed after his scooter was rammed by a car in Taipei's Shilin District at around 6 p.m.
Food delivery is seen as a high risk job in which couriers rush through traffic to make more deliveries and increase earnings, particularly on the streets of Taiwan, where wide use of scooters contributes to a complex traffic situation.
According to the Taipei City Police Department, there were 30 traffic accidents involving food couriers in Taipei alone from Oct. 1-13, killing one and injuring 29.
The police said all delivery workers in these cases were riding scooters, with 11 aged between 18-25, adding that it will hold a meeting with platform operators to discuss measures to improve workers' traffic safety on Oct. 18.
According to the Labor Ministry, of the seven food delivery platforms currently operating in Taiwan, three -- Foodpanda, Uber Eats and Lalamove -- claim they do not have employment relations with their food couriers.
The remaining four see their deliverers as employees and therefore take out labor insurance, the ministry said.
The ministry said it will inspect the other five companies in two weeks. It added that whether or not a company is an employer or contractor, they must take out labor insurance for the people they employ.
The Labor Minister Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) said Monday that the government is considering revision to existing law to ensure greater protections for employees.
Labor insurance, which is mandatory for all workers in Taiwan, compensates workers for disabilities and deaths suffered on the job, and provides a small pension after they retire.
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