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26 Mar 2022

MAK Tak Ching, Riders’ Rights Concern Group

Hong Kong: Foodpanda strike - Organising in Network and a Movement in Progress

foodpanda Strike: Organising in Network and a Movement in Progress

A Speech in the ‘Roundtable Online: the Working Conditions of Platform Workers’ on March 26, 2022

MAK Tak Ching, Riders’ Rights Concern Group

March 26, 2022

The movement

As my colleagues shared, food platform companies decline to recognise any employment relations with delivery couriers, nor assume responsibilities of labour protection. Moreover, we also have explored ways to organise the couriers. We strive to defend the labour rights of couriers. From the perspective of labour movement, we can understand why the Riders’ Rights Concern Group has strived hard to defend workers’ rights and the possible development of the movement. [...]

Behind the strike

The foodpanda strike is described as a strike in the ‘post-trade union age’ and ‘without a big organised platform (in Cantonese, mou daai-toi 冇大台)’.[2] The strike, however, did not come from nothing. It had its historical succession and backup of an ‘organised platform’. [...]

‘Organised platform’ in network

One issue I would like to share here is the ‘organised platform’ (in Cantonese, daai-toi 大台). The Catering and Hotel Industries Employees General Union, an affiliate of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), did join in the strikes of couriers every time, although they could not recruit a considerable number of couriers as trade union members. But the trade union did in most cases gain the trust of the couriers and served as a part of the couriers’ negotiation team. It happened too in the foodpanda strike. When reviewing the strike, the couriers affirm again that one of the key factors to success in the strike is the participation of trade union and labour groups. The Catering Union shared with the couriers the strike strategies, and the Riders’ Rights Concern Group helped serve as the secretariat. We did facilitate the formation of the workers’ negotiation team. The formula, workers’ representatives × trade union × Concern Group = an organised platform. This fact should be acknowledged. The only thing is that this ‘platform’ is not a platform with control power, but rather a platform in network. [...]

A study shows that half of the couriers wish to join a trade union. As we know, however, the couriers wish trade union to serve as their backup, but they do not think of actually organising a trade union. We have asked the representatives of the couriers about the fact if they wish to organise a trade union. They reply, ‘No.’ They are worried by the troubles and afraid of losing the freedom in mobilising flexibly. A probable and feasible option is to organise a platform in network. Moreover, under the existing harsh suppression against trade unions, it is questionable if the couriers should organise a trade union today.

Part of the following timelines

Hong Kong: Foodpanda workers end strike after deal on wages and working conditions, police warned earlier that they might use force to disperse protest

Hong Kong: Concern over trade union and labour rights