Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Philippine Supreme Court upholds delivery riders’ services

Services performed by bike riders are integral to the businesses of their employers, the top court says

The Supreme Court in the Philippines recognized the services of motorcycle riders delivering goods as regular employees and ordered their employers to provide them with full benefits.

In a verdict on Jan. 23, the top court overturned a decision of a lower court that dismissed a petition from bike riders seeking the regularization of their jobs from their employer.

“Picking up and delivering goods from the warehouse to buyers do not call for specific expertise. It is also not shown that riders were hired due to their unique ability or competency... Lazada had control over the means and methods of the performance of the work of the petitioners, as reflected in the way they carried out their work,” the apex court said.

The court referred to a petition from five bike riders under the contracts of the business group, Lazada E-Services Philippines, who waged a legal battle to have their employment and benefits from their employer.

NAGKAISA, a labor coalition group and the Federation of Free Workers, welcomed the Supreme Court verdict.

“The Supreme Court has once again put flesh and blood to the constitutional provision of protection to labor and upholds the fundamental right of workers to a regular job,” the federation’s lawyer and president Sonny Matula told UCA News.

Matula said the ruling was a victory for workers and a “nightmare” to those who took advantage of laborers and denied benefits to them.

“This is a victory for the workers. The Court made it clear that the protection of labor and the guarantee of security of tenure are not mere embellishments in a parchment that can be ignored like wallpapers on the wall. They are fundamental rights that should be enjoyed by workers in real life,” Matula added.

In 2016, petitioners and riders Chrisden Cabrera Ditiangkin, Hendrix Masamayor Molines, Harvey Mosquito Juanio, Joselito Castro Verde, and Brian Anthony Cubacub Nabong challenged the ruling of the appellate court that they were not regular employees of a delivery company.

Their employer, Lazada E-Services Philippines, said petitioners were “independent contractors” that did not deserve the security of tenure.

“We were hired by Lazada as riders primarily tasked to pick up items from sellers and deliver them to Lazada’s warehouse with 1,200 pesos (US$24) per day as service fee for one year,” petitioner and rider Molines told UCA News.

Molines and fellow riders lost the case in the labor commission and the appellate court. They moved the Supreme Court for a final appeal.

In overruling the appellate court’s decision, the Supreme Court said that riders cannot be considered independent contractors because they did not perform any specific skill or talent.

The Supreme Court also said that the services performed by petitioners are integral to the business of their employer, with the delivery of items integrated with the services offered, thus rendering regular services to the company.

Another delivery rider Josh Perano said the new ruling would give his family peace of mind, especially because as a regular employee, he now enjoys the security of tenure.

“Now my delivery company could not just fire me, and I don’t need to worry if I will still have a job after three months or a year. Even if I earn less than 1,000 pesos [US$20] a day, I have a secured job,” Perano told UCA News.

In 2021, the Philippines had more than 4 million registered motorbikes, and about 10,000 bikers were engaged in delivery services, according to the Philippine Land Transportation Office.

“The number has doubled during the pandemic when Filipino households decided not to go to malls and restaurants to avoid contamination from Covid-19,” rider Mike Guzman told UCA News.

The Catholic Bishops Conference said the Social Action Commission has organized a committee to oversee the rights and needs of bike riders- a booming labor sector in the country.

“We have already formed a Commission to make sure that the rights of workers are protected especially those who engage in this kind of work are really the poor Filipinos,” the commission secretary Father James Oredain told UCA News.  

“More than their rights, of course, we bring them closer to Christ through spiritual formation,” the priest added. - By UCA News reporter

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