Catering platforms are urged to improve wellbeing of deliverymen
Published: Jul 26, 2021 08:13 PM
food delivery workers Photo: CFP

food delivery workers Photo: CFP

Seven government departments, including China's top market regulator, on Monday unveiled new guidelines urging online catering platforms to safeguard the rights and interests of delivery workers, as part of a broader push to rein in the unchecked expansion of platform businesses at the expense of employees' wellbeing. 

The guidelines were jointly released by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), the Cyberspace Administration of China, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Commerce, and other departments, specifying broad-ranging efforts on the part of catering platforms to boost delivery workers' wellbeing.

An income distribution mechanism that aligns with workers' assignments and work intensify needs to be put in place to ensure that delivery workers' normal pay is not lower than the local minimum wage, read a statement on the SAMR's website. 

The platforms were also banned from using algorithms that provide the harshest performance reviews of the delivery staffers. They were ordered to get the median of the algorithms while setting reasonable evaluation criteria including order numbers, punctuality and availability, as well as to relax time limits for food delivery.

The guidelines also called for the platforms and their third-party partners to enable contracted delivery workers to access social insurance programs. 

The new rules will inevitably raise the operating costs of these platforms, factoring in more commitments to delivery workers' wellbeing and cutting into profits, Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based independent tech analyst, told the Global Times on Monday.

Shares of food delivery giant Meituan in Hong Kong listing, already battered in a market sell-off, extended losses shortly after the announcement. Its shares sank 13.76 percent on Monday, worse than the 6.57-percent fall in the Hang Seng TECH Index.

The guideline announcement will play an important part in pushing the sound development of the industry as a whole, Meituan said in a statement to the Global Times late on Monday.

The food delivery platform vowed to resolutely implement the guidelines and safeguard workers' rights and interests in the areas of job security, delivery safety, welfare and an improved experience as part of moves to improve the quality of employment in the sector, according to the company. 

The resultant earnings pressure will supposedly be no concern of the platforms over the longer run, as food delivery workers, who would be given a greater sense of gain in the wake of the new guidelines, will in turn make greater contributions to a benign ecosystem comprising the platforms, restaurants, consumers and deliverymen," Liu remarked.  

According to the new guidelines, the platforms should improve delivery routes, reduce work intensity, and strengthen road safety education and training for food delivery workers. A direct conduit to address delivery workers' complaints within a certain period of time was also on the to-do list for the platforms.

On top of that, the catering platforms were urged to strengthen training on food security, thereby ensuring food won't be contaminated while being delivered.

The popularity of smart food lockers, and research and development of smart helmets were also encouraged, per the guidelines, which push for the creation of trade unions that fit into new business models and that would attract the participation of food delivery workers.

Such efforts are also considered part of a national drive to put platform firms and their employees on an equal footing, with improved working conditions and enhanced protection of employees' rights. 

In another high-profile move, domestic internet giants including ByteDance and Kuaishou announced the revocation of their overtime practices that entitled  employees to fewer weekly rest days.