'Level playing field' needed on protections of gig workers, as platform companies note exemption for taxi, logistics firms
SINGAPORE – While supporting the Government's moves to raise protections for gig workers, several platform companies and an association representing the industry called for a level playing field with taxi companies and logistics firms, noting that the changes will have a smaller impact on them
- Platform companies called for a level playing field with taxi companies and third-party logistics firms
- They were reacting to the Government's move to make CPF contributions mandatory for gig work and to raise the work injury protections of gig workers
- Street-hail taxis and some logistics firms are not subjected to the changes even though they involve platform workers too, an association said
- The recommendations should also be applied to all platforms that engage in platform workers to ensure no price and market distortion
- Platform companies also warn that the additional costs may have to be shouldered by consumers and workers themselves
SINGAPORE – While supporting the Government's moves to raise protections for gig workers, several platform companies and an association representing the industry called for a level playing field with taxi companies and logistics firms, noting that the changes will have a smaller impact on them.
Some platform companies also warned that the higher expected business costs may inevitably have to be shouldered by consumers and gig workers themselves, they said on Wednesday (Nov 23).
Earlier in the day, the Government accepted all 12 recommendations by an advisory committee on platform workers spelling out how gig workers are to be compensated for work injuries. These workers include those handling food deliveries or private-hire car drivers providing ride-hailing services through online platforms.
The committee also recommended that contributions to the Central Provident Fund (CPF), the national savings scheme for retirement, be made compulsory for platform companies and gig workers. Legislative changes will be made to allow gig workers to collectively bargain for their wages and benefits.
The advisory committee, which was formed last September, said in its report that its recommendations would ensure better financial protection, as well as housing and retirement adequacy for gig workers.
The measures will also enhance the representation of this group of workers who are often modestly paid but bear the risks of being injured while working, the committee added.
The moves apply to gig workers who are subject to control by platform companies over the jobs they receive and accept, as well as fees for their services.
Professor Danny Quah, vice-chairperson of the committee, said this means that street-hailed taxi drivers, for example, are exempt from the measures given the "profound difference" in the business models between street-hail taxis and platform companies.
The Digital Platforms Industry Association, which represents platform companies, said in a statement that it is critical the Government ensures a level playing field for all digital platforms in Singapore.
"The potential exclusion of some third-party logistics and taxi street-hail platforms, which also use platform workers for their business needs, could lead to price and market distortion," it added.
Ride-hailing firm Grab said that all industry players that employ gig workers should follow the recommendations to make them sustainable and effective.
“Grab is of the view that street-hail taxi and third-party logistics companies should also be covered under the set of recommendations as they similarly tap gig workers with the same workplace protection needs for their business requirements."
Without a level playing field, the moves may encourage other industry players to innovate and fit their business models such that they are excluded from the moves, too.
This may then render the recommendations ineffective, Grab added.
COSTS MAY BE BORNE BY GIG WORKERS, CONSUMERS
Responding to the announcements, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said that it supported the recommendations by the advisory committee.
Even though the recommendations covered the main problems faced by gig workers, NTUC said that the changes should not be at the expense of workers’ fair earnings.
Ms Yeo Wan Ling, adviser to the National Taxi Association, National Private Hire Vehicles Association and National Delivery Champions Association, said that the roll-out of the recommendations is a significant step forward in advancing the protection of gig workers, but highlighted that more work lies ahead to operationalise the recommendations.
"Our associations will monitor the upcoming implementation of recommendations and continue engaging our platform workers to ensure that their concerns and queries are addressed,” she added.
In their statements, platform companies were of the view that the measures will have an impact on their gig workers, especially those concerning the move to make CPF contributions compulsory.
Ride-hailing firm Gojek said that the move will mean lower take-home earnings for its gig workers.
"Implementing these recommendations will also impact costs to platforms and consumers, and driver-partners may experience lower demand for rides.
"Coupled with rising vehicle and fuel costs, we will work together with all industry partners to implement these changes while ensuring the sustainability of the ride-hail industry,” Gojek said.
Food delivery platform Foodpanda said that the recommendations will have a significant impact on riders, and more support for them during the period of transition may also be necessary.
“In addition, any implementation of measures must balance the needs of all stakeholders in the delivery ecosystem, especially considering today’s challenging economic environment," Foodpanda added.
"The measures should consider potential trade-offs, for example, increasing costs that may inevitably have to be shouldered together with consumers and merchant partners. This could inadvertently affect rider earnings.”
The Digital Platforms Industry Association agreed that the changes would have to be evenly paced to "not disrupt the ecosystem of merchants, rider partners and consumers".
"Given the nature of gig work, including complications such as the flexibility of on-demand payouts, this will not be a simple plug-and-play effort and will require significant work from all stakeholders to fine-tune the implementation details, to minimise the overall disruption for all parties involved," the association said.
"These measures will place an upward pressure on business costs, and we must recognise that this will impact the wider ecosystem, including merchants and consumers who may see increased prices, and our rider partners whose take-home earnings may be reduced,"
PROPOSED ALTERNATIVES BY INSURANCE ASSOCIATION
The General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA) released a statement on Wednesday (Nov 23) in support of objectives to strengthen financial and work protections for platform workers.
GIA found the measures laid out by the advisory committee on platform workers to be necessary, but it proposed alternatives to the Work Injury Compensation framework that was accepted by the Government.
Mr Ho Kai Weng, chief executive officer of GIA, said of the proposed alternatives: "Platform workers can be protected for medical expenses, medical leave wages and permanent incapacity and death through the existing solutions of Medishield Life (under the Central Provident Fund), prolonged medical leave insurance and group personal accident insurance instead of using the Work Injury Compensation framework."
Prolonged medical leave insurance and group personal accident insurance are covered by some private insurance companies, for example.
Mr Ho added: "While a Work Injury Compensation-based solution has many strengths that the advisory committee has identified, it also has its downsides.
"An employee on a fixed wage may find it easy to quantify his income, but a platform worker must quantify and prove his loss of income over many months, and for many of them, across multiple platforms."
He said that GIA's proposed options benefit the workers with a wider scope of protection, reduce the effort required by workers to compute and make their claims, and reduce disputes on whether a worker was at work or not when injuries happen, and the amount of the worker’s lost earnings.
In its report, the advisory committee said it had not recommended platform companies to provide group personal accident insurance.
This is because should such personal accident insurance cover the same scope and level as regular employees under the Work Injury Compensation Act, platform companies would have to cover gig workers, even if they were injured outside of work.
This would translate to would incur higher premiums to the platform companies.
GIA declined to comment on what the moves could mean for insurance premiums.
Related topicsgig economy platform workers Grab Gojek Foodpanda
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