Committee to look into better protection of delivery riders, private-hire drivers and cabbies

Workers for platforms such as foodpanda, Grab and Deliveroo have no employment contracts, and thus lack basic job protections. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The advisory committee on platform workers will study how to strengthen protection of those in delivery services, private-hire car drivers and cabbies, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon.

It will also look into "ensuring a more balanced relationship" between them and the companies they work with, as well as compensation and better protection from workplace injuries, he told the House on Tuesday (Sept 14) in response to MPs who asked about protection for these gig workers.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced at the National Day Rally last month that the Manpower Ministry will study how to accord greater protection to delivery workers.

PM Lee had noted that workers for platforms such as foodpanda, Grab and Deliveroo have no employment contracts and thus lack basic job protections such as workplace injury compensation, union representation and employer Central Provident Fund contributions.

On Tuesday, Dr Koh said about 79,000 people worked with matching platform companies for their main source of income last year.

Of these, about half are private-hire car drivers and one-third are taxi drivers. The rest are mostly car and light goods vehicle drivers, who use delivery service platforms to obtain delivery work.

From 2018 to 2020, the median monthly income of full-time employed residents in these three occupations ranged between $1,500 and $2,000, Dr Koh said.

Mr Melvin Yong (Radin Mas) asked about the number of injuries and fatalities suffered by food and goods delivery riders; and whether it could be related to riders rushing to meet daily incentive targets.

Dr Koh, who is also Senior Minister of State for Health, said there were two deaths each year in 2019 and 2020. There were no deaths in 2018 - the first year such figures were tracked.

There is no data on traffic-related injuries suffered by these delivery riders, he added.

Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) asked if the compensation and support provided to the families of gig platform workers who had lost their lives were comparable to that of similar accidents taking place in delivery firms.

Dr Koh replied: "I don't have information on that, but suffice it to say that they are not treated as employees, so I would imagine that the amount of compensation, if there is, would not be commensurate with what employees would probably get under the Employment Act."

The issue of compensation is something the advisory committee would look into, Dr Koh stressed.

Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) asked if the Manpower Ministry would consider setting up a longer-term safety net for platform workers, noting that many she had spoken to were concerned about financial arrangements such as retirement, medical insurance and the purchase of housing.

In response, Dr Koh said the committee would take her feedback into account.

"(The committee will) deliberate on this, striking a good balance between maintaining flexibility of work while ensuring some degree of protection and stability for their longer-term goals, whether its housing or retirement," he said.

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