What caused Hong Kong’s Foodpanda riders to go on strike? Long waiting times, pay cuts and order system among grievances

·4-min read

Long waiting times at restaurants, being unable to reject orders and changes to their pay were high on a list of grievances that prompted couriers under Hong Kong online delivery platform Foodpanda to launch a weekend strike.

Waqas Fida, a 27-year-old rider who helped organise the two-day protest in which hundreds of disgruntled fleet members took part, said he went from earning about HK$1,300 (US$167) per day to HK$700, due to the company cutting fees and expanding delivery zones.

Fida, originally from Pakistan and who moved to the city in 2018 with his wife, said he usually worked from 11am until midnight, with a break for dinner.

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Another gripe from couriers is the waiting times at restaurants, with workers telling the Post they could be in the line for up to 30 minutes. If they rejected too many orders, they claimed they would be moved to a lower pay scale.

“We are not paid per hour, so do not waste our time,” said Fida, who voiced hope the matter could be addressed, pointing to rival Deliveroo which allowed riders to cancel orders if restaurant waits exceeded 13 minutes.

With a meeting set with Foodpanda this week, Fida on Monday said he expected representatives to “listen to us and help solve our problems”.

While exact fees were not explicitly laid out, strike participants said couriers were previously paid at least HK$50 for each motorbike order, and between HK$35 and HK$38 for ones delivered on foot.

But fees have now been cut to around HK$45 for motorbike orders and to as little as HK$28 for ones delivered on foot.

Riders have said the fees for both types of orders will be reduced even further from Monday, to about HK$40 and HK$22, respectively.

Foodpanda riders have complained of long waiting times at restaurants. Photo: May Tse
Foodpanda riders have complained of long waiting times at restaurants. Photo: May Tse

Among the demands were to have the minimum order fee returned, and cancellation of reduced service fees for stacked orders, as well as allowing riders the right to reject orders.

Food delivery apps have seen a boom in demand during the coronavirus pandemic, with workers attracted to join companies such as Deliveroo and Foodpanda, hoping for a good wage and flexibility.

Couriers are local Hongkongers, including members of the city’s ethnic minority communities from Pakistan, India and Nepal. They are considered independent workers, and are typically paid per delivery depending on the estimated duration and distance of a trip.

Deliveroo and Foodpanda each have about 10,000 self-employed riders in Hong Kong.

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Foodpanda has said it has reinvested money into higher peak service fees, which, according to the company, is double that on offer last year, “allowing more couriers to earn more during peak hours, while fulfilling customer demand”.

Hong Kong-born Mujahid Khan, 24, was also among the workers on strike at the weekend. He joined Foodpanda in 2019, making about HK$900 a day on a motorcycle, on 80-hour work weeks. He now earns about HK$600 for the same hours in Kowloon.

He said it depended if workers could get the shifts they wanted, with three per day, and the roster released at the weekend for the week ahead.

“The people who get those shifts [that they want] will be earning the most, but what about the others? It is kind of unfair,” he said.

Many riders are members of the city’s ethnic minority communities. Photo: May Tse
Many riders are members of the city’s ethnic minority communities. Photo: May Tse

Another courier, a 45-year-old former DJ, who started working full-time at Foodpanda last March as a cyclist, said he now made HK$2,000 less every week, affecting his ability to support his four children, aged six to 20. He declined to reveal his name.

Originally from the Philippines, he has lived in Hong Kong for 26 years and did not take part in the strike, saying he was harassed when he tried to go to work.

He said he had no choice but to accept the salary cut, as it had been hard to find other jobs.

“I would love for the salary to go back to how it was, but we have no choice. I do whatever is there just to survive.”

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