A study has found that Hong Kong's army of food delivery drivers are still facing a range of difficulties, including unpredictable earnings and harsh assessments, almost a year after some went on strike in a bid to improve conditions.
Researchers from Lingnan University and the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers-Kowloon surveyed more than a hundred delivery workers between March and May and interviewed around three dozen drivers about their working conditions.
They found that many of the workers had little or no knowledge of what was in the contracts they had signed and almost half of them had no insurance.
The researchers also said companies were constantly changing their service fee evaluation systems without consulting staff and it is extremely difficult for workers to appeal in cases of dispute.
It was cuts to delivery fees that sparked a strike by Foodpanda workers last November, disrupting the firm's services in parts of the city before an agreement was eventually reached.
"We are really hoping that the government could step up their regulatory measures on these companies and keep on regular checking to monitor the behaviour of these companies, especially when they constantly change their system to their own self-interest at the expense of the rights of the workers,” said Professor Lisa Leung, from the university's department of cultural studies.
The researchers also noted that a lot of the delivery drivers they spoke to are of South Asian origin and said about half reported being the victim of racism while working, including verbal abuse that left them feeling belittled and humiliated.
One delivery worker said the discrimination was more evident during peaks in the pandemic.
“I was delivering this order to one building, and then there is a family...wife and a husband with their two kids. As soon as they saw me, he shouted at their children 'get away, get away, there’s disease coming, he’s dirty.' I felt very sad then," the man said.
The researchers called on the government to educate the public on racial/ethno-sensitivity and to acknowledge the contributions ethnic minority residents make towards the economy and society.