Call for feedback as Govt looks to better protect delivery gig workers, private-hire and taxi drivers

The committee is seeking feedback from stakeholders on three main areas. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - The authorities are seeking feedback on how to better protect point-to-point (P2P) drivers and delivery gig workers who currently do not have the same negotiating power, financial benefits and medical insurance that other full-time employees do.

An online form has been published on government feedback agency Reach's website that will be available until Dec 15. It is in conjunction with other steps taken by the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers, which is conducting the exercise, to consult other stakeholders including workers and companies.

Delivery workers, private-hire drivers and taxi drivers who work with platform companies to provide delivery and transport services are considered self-employed, and do not receive employee benefits from the companies they work for.

They make up about 3 per cent of Singapore's resident workforce, or 79,000 people.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower and adviser to the advisory committee, said on Monday (Nov 15) that these workers lack basic employment protections like work injury compensation, union representation and Central Provident Fund (CPF) employer contributions.

"(They) earn more modest wages compared to other employees... The advisory committee, comprising representatives from the Government, labour movement, industry and academia, aims to find a way forward that balances the interests of all stakeholders," he said.

In 2019, the median take-home earning of people whose main source of income is platform work was in the bottom 20 per cent of the working population here.

But the committee also noted that platform workers are a diverse group.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the earnings of drivers were significantly impacted, while food delivery transactions reached record levels. The level of reliance of each worker on their platform gigs are also different - some have full-time jobs, while others have contracts with multiple platforms.

One of the committee's challenges is to account for these differences, while ensuring that any new regulations to render help are not too complicated to enforce or for workers to understand, it said.

It is also concerned that changes may have unintended consequences on the attractiveness of platform work, with many of those who choose it valuing the autonomy it gives them on deciding when to work and how to save.

The committee is seeking feedback from stakeholders on three main areas.

First, it wants to help platform workers better save for their housing and retirement needs.

Typically, employers pay up to 17 per cent of employees' income to their CPF as part of Singapore's mandated savings scheme.

However, platform companies do not need to make CPF contributions on their behalf. Workers who are already earning low wages are also likely to struggle to save for housing and retirement, which means many of them will struggle in the long term, the committee said.

Already, only 29 per cent of taxi drivers who turned 55 last year met the CPF basic retirement sum, which gives them lifelong monthly payouts enough to cover their basic living expenses from the age of 65.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the earnings of drivers were significantly impacted. PHOTO: ST FILE

The committee will evaluate the extent to which the retirement and housing support measures for platform workers should be aligned with the broader workforce and other possible measures that could help.

Bearing in mind that this will likely lead to increased costs for businesses, it also wants to decide on what a fair distribution of additional costs between companies, businesses and users will look like.

Second, it wants to better insure platform workers, who spend a disproportionate amount of time on the roads, against work injury.

Insurance policies are currently uneven across different platforms, depending on what each company implements. Platform workers are also not covered under the Work Injury Compensation Act.

However, because gig workers may work with multiple platforms, "it is not immediately clear which platform is responsible to compensate, and how compensation should be determined", the committee said.

"As the nature of platform work is interspersed with breaks, it may not be clear whether an injury is related to work."

Lastly, the committee is considering allowing platform workers to unionise to ensure they have a greater say in their share of the fees, training support and medical benefits, as well as how disputes are resolved.

Currently, the National Taxi Association, the National Private Hire Vehicles Association and National Delivery Champions Association can advocate for their members but do not have the legal right to negotiate the contractual terms for them.

The committee seeks to complete its work by the second half of next year.

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