Rise of food delivery apps in Thailand exposes rights disparity

PHOTO: Samui Times

The owners of the highly popular food-delivery apps are facing growing calls to improve welfare rights for their workers, as more people opt to take on a full or part-time job as a “rider”. Speaking at the online seminar, “When Riders Strike Back”, Akkanut Wantanasombut from Chulalongkorn University says employment law needs to be expanded to cover new roles such as those carrying out deliveries for app-based platforms.

According to a report in the Bangkok Post, there are more than 100,000 such workers nationwide, with approximately 70,000 in Bangkok alone. Akkanut says many delivery platforms categorise these workers as “partners”, which allows them to avoid paying social security for their staff. Workers also say they’re earning less, due to an increase in the number of riders in the business.

Apantee Charoensak left her office role to become a full-time driver and says riders must pay for their own fuel, vehicle maintenance, and insurance. She says while there is a social security fund to cover hospital bills in the event of an accident, all contributions to the fund are from staff, with none from the employer.

“We don’t really know who our bosses are. There’s no one to take responsibility for our employment.”

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Another rider, ‘Boy’, says he thought not being regarded as a company employee would be an advantage, in that he would not be constrained by workplace rules. However, he finds himself still obliged to wear the company jacket and attach a cumbersome delivery box to the back of his bike. The unwieldy box often makes it difficult to maneouvre in heavy traffic, posing a risk to safety.

Meanwhile, economist Thanee Chaiwat, also from Chulalongkorn University, says freelancers and similar workers need to be brought into the welfare net, as they do not have a guaranteed income each month and are at high risk of unemployment.

A further challenge is posed by casual workers who don company jackets and carry out deliveries outside of their main office job. Such workers cannot access the social security fund in the event of an accident as the fund is only available to full-time workers. However, it’s understood riders have rejected a proposal that they be paid the minimum wage of just over 300 baht a day, in return for being classed as company employees.

Business has been booming for the delivery apps and services.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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