FILIPINO platform workers – or those employed by digital apps that mediate between customers and a service – have been widely hailed for their indispensable role in the pandemic, helping people overcome lockdown restrictions by providing most daily essentials like food, water, medicine, groceries, documents, and even wellness treats for the Covid-weary like plants.

Digital platform business models evolved rapidly in the first two years of the pandemic as people gave their opinions on how to improve services and deal with kuya-the pilot who is in the front line of the platform – better.

Soriano: “We are saying here that platform work appears as an opportunity for workers, but it also tells us about the broader working conditions.”

However, despite all their best intentions and efforts, platform companies have faced the impact of the pandemic, which has undermined economies and businesses around the world. Of course, they have provided much-needed jobs and income opportunities for thousands of displaced people since 2020; of course, they provided the households with most of their needs. However, it is not a perfect world and many rig workers have been found to have been exploited and endured unsafe working conditions, according to research by the Fairwork Project at the University of Oxford.

According to the study, nine digital platforms in the Philippines generally performed poorly on five key fairness measures defined by Fairwork.

These five principles are: fair remuneration, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair representation. Each principle corresponds to two points to achieve a perfect equity score of 10.

Fairwork collected the data using three methods: data research, worker interviews, and manager interviews.

Of the nine digital platforms, GrabCar and GrabExpress/GrabFood rank high, but score a measly 3 points out of 10; Angkas and Lalamove trailed in second place with 2 out of 10 points.

Brozo, Foodpanda, Joyride, TokTok and Transportify all scored 0 out of 10.

“The scores we revealed to you show that exploitation and unsafe working conditions are not just accidents; these are choices made by platform companies alongside governments and its inability to come up with effective policies as well as us in general, platform users,” said Cheryll Soriano, senior researcher at Fairwork Philippines. .

Soriano, a professor in the Department of Communication at De La Salle University, added that the scores represent “an overall weak performance with some variation”.

Fairwork estimates that the Philippines has “nearly half a million platform workers” registered.

Below minimum wage

Fairwork’s research showed that no platform studied guaranteed that workers earned at least the daily minimum wage of 537 pesos per day after work-related costs.

Soriano explained why he came to this conclusion: Fairwork took into account the amount the worker earned for their work, as well as labor-related costs and waiting time between jobs. These include the cost of gas, tools, maintenance, and labor, among many other factors.

“Although some workers who work long hours in a day may reach the minimum wage threshold at the gross income level, many fall below when the cost of the job-specific equipment they need to perform the tasks and other labor costs are taken into account. in,” Soriano said.

Additionally, Fairwork could not find evidence that the platforms ensure that workers earn at least the local living wage of 710P.

“We’re saying here that platform work appears as an opportunity for workers, but it also tells us about broader working conditions,” she said.

No safety net

The THE study also revealed that only four platforms, GrabCar, GrabFood/Express, Angkas and Lalamove, used certain practices to protect workers from the risks associated with their work.

Some examples of good practice included providing safety training and in-app emergency buttons, free accident insurance, different forms of Covid-19 responses, protection against algorithmic miscalculations and a protection against passenger scams, explained Soriano.

The latter has surfaced with several high-profile cases where some criminals booked orders of enormous value, but gave wrong addresses, leaving riders holding the proverbial empty bag. In some cases, the public, touched by their plight as their stories went viral, pitched in to help runners cover their costs.

At the height of such a viral case, one netizen remarked that the runners deserved public appreciation because, so to speak, “they took the Covid ball for us” by going all over the place to deliver what people had badly needed, despite the high risk of infections.

The study found that benefits beyond direct task-specific risks, such as educational and disaster assistance and sick pay, are not available to rig workers, nor offering them no “safety net to protect workers in the event of incapacity for work due to illness or accident.”

Fairwork also found that some platform contracts “can be expensive, difficult to understand, and may not always be communicated in language workers understand.”

4 have clear terms

HOWEVER, according to research, GrabCar, GrabFood/Express, Angkas and Lalamove have clear and accessible terms and conditions.

Additionally, Fairwork found that only two platforms, GrabCar and GrabFood/Express, have accurate communication mechanisms for workers to meaningfully appeal low ratings, payment issues, deactivations, and other penalties. and disciplinary action, giving workers greater opportunities for redress.

“We did not find sufficient evidence to attribute this point to other platforms. In addition, platforms should be encouraged to publicly articulate policies supporting equality, diversity and inclusion and a commitment to implement fair algorithms, as none of the evaluated platforms could prove either of these living wages,” the report states.

Finally, Fairwork found that no platform “ensured the freedom of association and expression of the collective voice of workers”.

Soriano said Fairwork intends to take the study to congressional hearings to further defend the rights of platform workers.

Lack of local context

GRAB Philippines, which operates GrabCar, GrabExpress and GrabFood, said it welcomes the Fairwork report as it reveals opportunities to build a better platform economy in the Philippines.

However, Grab also believes that while the study provided valid points, it lacked local context.

“Unlike the European platform work model – which Fairwork adapted in its study, the state of platform work in the Philippines is quite unique: there are several local nuances and practices that prevail between local platforms and their workers – allowing two parties to work harmoniously toward their common goals,” said Grab.

Foodpanda, for its part, echoed Grab’s statement, while noting that its Fairwork scores were low because it did not provide requested documents on time.

“While we respect the rating given by Fairwork based on its own findings, we also observed that the criteria or principles used do not fit neatly into the Philippine context, given the laws and regulations applied. as far as the independents are concerned. We hope that any assessment of the labor practices of digital platforms such as Foodpanda Philippines will consider the laws implemented in that jurisdiction,” Foodpanda said.

Lalamove noted that it provides its partners with “flexible and sustainable income to support themselves and their families.”

“As more and more businesses and individual consumers turn to online platforms to meet their delivery and logistics needs, we are able to offer more opportunities than ever to our delivery partners. , especially in this difficult time with economic challenges,” Lalamove says.

Regardless, Grab, Foodpanda and Lalamove noted that they are fully committed to improving the quality of life for stakeholders, especially its driver and delivery partners.

“This is demonstrated by various livelihood support initiatives and economic empowerment programs that tens of thousands of our Ka-Grab partners continue to enjoy and benefit from to this day,” Grab said.

“Foodpanda is committed to the fair treatment of its independent delivery people. Delivery freelancers have the freedom to choose the time and duration of their working hours, and even the freedom to also work on any other platform they choose, including those that offer regular employment. Our Ka Panda Delivery Partners are assured that their earnings and incentives are fairly based on the self-employment they perform, consistent with principles of equity,” Foodpanda said.

“We are committed to supporting our partner drivers, for example, with our Panalomove program, offering benefits such as fuel discounts, 24/7 personal accident insurance, quick loans, grocery coupons , driver’s clothing, and more,” Lalamove said.

The business mirror have also reached out to the other platforms for sides, but they have yet to respond to our requests for comment.

Picture credits: Roy Domingo, Fair work