Food couriers lack protection in gig economy

I urge all meal delivery services in Singapore to halt all deliveries whenever there is heavy rain.

On Christmas Eve, flash floods hit several parts of Singapore. I saw many food couriers on their motorcycles, despite the heavy rain and poor visibility. I found it unsettling to see the men risking their lives this way.

Indeed, it is not clear who is responsible for their welfare.

In the gig economy, these riders are technically their own employers. Most of them are not in a strong position to reject delivery assignments. As freelance workers who depend on third-party delivery service apps as a source of income, their bargaining power is weak.

Customers cannot be relied upon to refrain from ordering food at such times. In fact, demand for meal delivery services increases in rainy weather.

On Christmas Eve, flash floods hit several parts of Singapore. I saw many food couriers on their motorcycles, despite the heavy rain and poor visibility. I found it unsettling to see the men risking their lives this way.

There are no compliance mechanisms or profit incentives to encourage meal delivery operators to take into account the safety of riders.

Companies should not absolve themselves of all responsibility.

Mark Chia Mingde

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'Food couriers lack protection in gig economy'. Print Edition | Subscribe