All of us desire a workplace that is safe and has a protected atmosphere. However, a safe work environment is not a given for delivery riders. They face risks daily while plying the roads.
The safety of delivery riders has been in the news for a while. According to this article, 90% of the riders interviewed by Straits Times in 2019 said they had an accident or knew of fellow riders who met with accidents.
For the first half of 2021, vehicular accidents continued to be a leading cause of work-related fatalities in Singapore, with four out of the six recorded vehicular-related fatalities involving delivery or dispatch riders on duty. This is based on the Ministry of Manpower’s Workplace Safety and Health Report.
According to Ms Yeo Wan Ling, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, “These workers’ journeys on the road can be precarious, and they are vulnerable to skids and falls, especially in wet weather or when they rush to meet delivery timings”.
Ms Yeo is also an adviser to the National Delivery Champions Association (NDCA), an NTUC-affiliated organisation.
Set up in 2021, NDCA is supported by the Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit (U FSE) of NTUC. It safeguards the interests and wellbeing of delivery riders and drivers by working closely with stakeholders to address work issues, enhance the support frameworks and uplift the work prospects of this group of workers.
Last month, a 54-year-old GrabFood delivery rider died from injuries following a traffic accident near Waterway Point mall in Punggol on June 24.
Besides providing support to the deceased’s family, NDCA also partnered TheShareCo, an organisation with a network of therapists, to provide resources which included on-site care and trauma counsellors for the community of delivery riders affected by the incident.
According to NDCA, “We were informed of the tragic incident that day and sought to extend care in solidarity with our community of affected rides. Unlike employees who have access to support from their employers, freelance platform workers are left to fend for themselves in times of need. The main challenge was trying to tie in all the pieces together in a short span of time. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Waterway Point & Mall Operator – Frasers Property – and ShareCo for so readily standing by to work with us on this.”.
Riders Support Area @ Waterway Point Mall
Mr Tan Han Sing, the founder of TheShareCo, said, “As a long-time partner of UFSE, we constantly update its team on developments in our organisation, especially the ones that could impact UFSE members in a positive way. So, for example, we shared with UFSE that Share (the app) was about to go live and ready to offer its members employment opportunities on the platform, as therapists. Coincidentally, the GrabFood delivery rider’s tragedy happened the following week, and we were humbled to be approached by UFSE to provide therapist resources required for the counselling event.”.
Putting together this engagement which involved many parties within a short period was not easy; however, he was humbled by the “strong support and compassion” displayed by more than 20 therapists who came forward for this good cause.
“It was the last weekend of the June school holidays, and we were concerned that some of our therapists might have to attend to the needs of their children or wards returning to their regular studies. Due to the nature of the event, they also had to confirm their participation within a short response time. We were glad that everything turned out well. The therapists put the interest of the community before selves. It’s admirable. That to me is grit and empathy at its finest, and we are very proud to have them on Share.”
Ms Yeo Wan Ling, adviser to NDCA met up with some of the riders and shared words of encouragement.
“Share” the (mental) load
TheShareCo recently launched Share, a Singapore-based mental health app that allows individuals to seek online therapy in an affordable, accessible and anonymous manner, anytime and from anywhere. It is believed to be the first-of-its-kind counselling on-demand app, and through Share, TheShareCo hopes to restore mental health and save lives amidst the current pandemic and economic-led hardships.
According to Mr Tan, his team felt encouraged by the feedback they had received from the three-day event.
“While the origin of the event was unfortunate, we were pleased to learn that many riders who showed up and showed support walked away feeling better. Whether they took part in the therapy sessions or not, it was heart-warming to know that the community cared about them. This was evident in the feedback we received from the attending therapists post-event. The UFSE/NDCA team also impressed us with their efficiency and dedication, putting everything together within such a short time. Overall, it was a very meaningful and well-organised event”.
NDCA expressed their heartfelt gratitude for this partnership and added, “The road safety of delivery riders is one of our key concerns. We strongly believe that more can be done to address the well-being and safety of our delivery riders who need their livelihoods to support their families. We seek greater understanding and graciousness towards our riders from road users and urge various stakeholders, especially platform companies, to join our efforts to create safer work conditions for them. What we learnt: it really takes many helping hands to support a community.”
Pamphlets were given out to riders during the engagement session.
Processes in review
Delivery riders, private-hire car drivers and taxi drivers are known collectively as platform workers, and they account for about 79,000 workers or 3 per cent of Singapore’s resident workforce.
Five delivery platform workers who died from work-related traffic accidents since January of 2021, had prompted the move to require platform companies to report all workplace injuries so that workers can receive the necessary compensation.
In light of the recent fatal accidents involving delivery workers, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon said in Parliament on Tuesday (July 5) that the Workplace Safety and Health Council is working with companies on a review to enhance road safety. At the same time, the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers is looking at improving financial protection in case of work injuries- to strengthen the safety of workers on the road and prevent accidents.
Responding to the question of why the Work Injury Compensation Act does not cover this particular group of workers in the gig economy, Dr Koh said, gig workers, are classified as self-employed and are thus not covered under the Employment Act.
However, the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers set up by MOM last year is looking into the matter and taking the perspective that platform workers “may be subjected to management controls by the algorithms and platforms” and should therefore be protected by the Act.
The Advisory Committee on Platform Workers looks into strengthening protections for self-employed persons who work for online platforms. It brings together representatives from the industry, academia, government and the Labour Movement.
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