Food Panda rider arrested amid labor protest


    A FOOD delivery driver was arrested yesterday in Manila while labor union members of food delivery app Food Panda were holding protest actions in front of the main office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Intramuros.

    In a statement, the Partido Manggagawa (PM) slammed the arrest of Food Panda Riders Association (FPRA) member Jack Vergara by the Manila Police while they were holding a peaceful protest action infront of the DOLE office.

    “We condemn the harassment by the Manila police of a peaceful concerted action by workers that is a constitutionally guaranteed right,” said PM chairman Rene Magtubo. “That DOLE area is traditionally a site of protest. But the police are now using the pandemic as an excuse to suppress the right to peaceful assembly,” he added.

    Magtubo said Vergara was arrested reportedly for taking videos of the protest. He was brought to the nearby police precinct but was also later released.

    In addition, PM said the cellphone of Romeo Maglunsod of the Kapatiran sa Dalawang Gulong (KAGULONG), another Food Panda rider, was also confiscated by the police.

    Magtubo asked Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to take action to prevent a repeat of the incident.

    “We ask Labor Secretary Bello to ensure that workers’ right to redress of grievances is observed at the DOLE area,” said Magtubo.

    The incident happened in the middle of the “unity ride” being conducted by some 700 riders of Food Panda.

    The riders went to the DOLE head office in a bid to seek an audience and deliver a letter addressed to Bello regarding unfavorable working conditions in the company.

    “Food Panda riders are called delivery partners. But, in reality, are employees of the company owning the app. Food Panda riders are subject to control and supervision of the company as shown by the impact of policy changes on pay and condition,” said KAGULONG.

    “We are asking the DOLE to conduct an inspection for the purpose of resolving the grievances of the Food Panda riders,” they added.

    One of the issues raised by the group is the “opaque” grading system as it has led to lower booking grades, more rider penalties, and reduced pay.

    KAGULONG also cited the “undispatch” policy, wherein riders are forced to rush in order to pick up an order, thereby putting their safety in peril.

    The Food Panda riders likewise demanded better transparency, especially in the computation of the pay for deliveries.

    DOLE – National Capital Region Director Sarah Buena Mirasol has vowed to look into the grievances of the Food Panda riders.