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9 Sep 2019

China Labour Bulletin (Hong Kong)

China: Food delivery workers forced to work under adverse weather conditions reveal lack of regulations

“Food delivery drivers forced to work in extreme weather shows absence of regulation”, 6 September 2019

The dreadful working conditions of Chinese food delivery drivers returned to the spotlight in August, as many workers reported that they were forced to take orders during a tropical storm, when demand for food delivery surged.

One Ele.me motorist said all drivers had been threatened by management with a penalty if they refused a dispatch when being called back to work in extreme weather…

Another driver in Shanghai died electrocuted in a storm on 10 August while trying to go across a large puddle of water with his motorcycle… CLB’s work accident map documented 11 cases of accidents in August, in which 3 workers died and 8 were injured.

… Drivers are considered merely as ‘independent contractors’ when demands about pension and work injury insurance arise and yet cannot refuse to work in bad weather. Being ‘independent contractors’ do not bring them the right to choose whether to work or not, and they are moreover forced to keep on accepting deliveries because of fines and intense exploitation.

Alongside work accidents, four protests related to food delivery drivers were also recorded on CLB’s Strike Map, denouncing mainly low pay and wage arrear...

Regulations on the new platform economy are obviously lacking. In this new and yet fast-growing sector, labour relations between companies and workers are unclear as most drivers only complete simple procedures on the app. Problems related to income calculation, pay scale and work injury insurance are major areas where disputes arise.

Governments in other countries have already started to address some of these issues…

… Most food delivery drivers are without any labour contract in China and existing laws are inadequate to handle issues like fake distance calculation and concealed penalties. As protests and strikes of drivers continue to erupt in all major cities in China, it is high time for the official trade union to step in and help workers hold bargaining meetings with the platforms. [Also referred to Meituan]

[Business and Human Rights Resource Centre tried to reach out to ele.me and Alibaba for company response, both companies could not be reached]

Part of the following timelines

China: Food delivery drivers complain of underpay, overwork and dangerous working conditions

China: Food delivery workers complain about being underpaid, overworked and forced to work in dangerous working conditions