Taiwan's government are taking steps to regulate platforms after food delivery drivers' death

Writer:Sun Chiung-Li,Translator:Lin Jing-hau(Reporter of Events in Focus)

(Photo Credit:侯百千)

This October, two young food delivery drivers from the two largest food delivery platforms in Taiwan, Foodpanda and Uber Eats, died from car accidents during the national day holidays. This tragedy exposed the lack of occupational accident insurance for workers in this rapid growing industry when media disclosed that the two deceased drivers were not insured by the platforms and could not get any compensation as a result.

Employees or contract workers?

Under current labor law in Taiwan, public labor insurance is only mandatory for employees who have a contract of employment with a company which has more than five workers. But food delivery platforms always offered contract for work rather than contract of employment to drivers.

Ministry of Labor(MOL) conducted a labor inspection in October to confirm the relationship between platforms and drivers and determined that most drivers under inspection in five major food delivery platforms, including Foodpanda and Uber Eats, should be hired as employees instead of contract workers.

According to MOL's report, there are now 45,129 food drivers in Taiwan, comparing to less than 10,000 drivers in an official stats last year.

On the other hand, Taipei City Government announced a city regulation requiring food delivery platforms to provide casualty insurance which should offer more than two million NTD for death benefit and long term disability regardless of the type of contract between drivers and platforms on November 1st. Drivers working in typhoon days is also prohibited by the regulation.

Is current labor insurance enough for drivers?

Currently, occupational accident insurance in Taiwan is subjected to labor insurance. But different from labor insurance, which employers afford 70% of the insurance fee while employees and state afford 20% and 10 % respectively, employers should pay the whole fee for workers.

However, the fee of occupational accident insurance is only 0.21% of workers' wage. The low fee rate results in low payment and strict criteria of qualification.

President Tsai Ing-Wen had promised to make an independent occupational accident insurance act to integrate related rules in different laws. Yet, according to the draft of the new act, the insurance fee still keeps in the same low level, which means that the new law is not able to deal with the key problem of current system. In addition, the lawmaking process is still stagnating in parliament and has little chance to be done before next May to fulfill the president's promise in her current term.

Besides, there are still diverse relationships between drivers and platforms adopted by different companies. Drivers who are not identified as employees but as contractors are still excluded from the new occupational accident insurance act.

Taipei City Government's regulation may be considered as a solution to current insufficiency of food drivers' occupational accident insurance since it requires platforms to provide insurance for all drivers to prevent employers from avoiding the responsibility through complicated working contract. The prohibition of working in typhoon days is also better than current labor law while many unions and groups are still fighting for natural disaster day-off.

Nevertheless, this regulation is only applicable for drivers working in Taipei City and there's still controversy over whether a local regulation instead of national law could impose such restriction to private contract.