Lawmaker seeks law protecting freelance workers

SunStar Davao File Photo
SunStar Davao File Photo

THE recent plight of the food delivery riders who were illegally dismissed by a prominent online food delivery app underscores the urgent need to pass a law protecting freelance workers, Davao City First District Representative Paolo Duterte said.

In a press release, Duterte said the legal dispute between FoodPanda Philippines and the delivery riders would not have reached this far had there been a law safeguarding the rights of freelancers from abuse and exploitation.

This after the National Labor and Relations Commission (NLRC), in a decision issued on December 7, 2022, affirmed the earlier ruling of its Labor Arbiter (LA) in favor of the delivery riders of FoodPanda Philippines who were terminated in 2021.

The riders, represented by the Davao United Delivery Riders Association Inc. (DUDRAI), said they were illegally dismissed by the company by suspending them and barring them from using its mobile app for 10 years.

Duterte, meanwhile, declined to comment on the details of the case as it is still an ongoing battle between the two parties.

“What we would like to point out, though, is that this issue has highlighted the lack of protection and benefits for freelancers. This could be corrected by passing a pending measure in Congress that squarely addresses this longstanding concern in our fast-growing gig economy,” he said.

The Dabawenyo lawmaker, along with Benguet Rep. Eric Yap and ACT-CIS Partylist Reps. Edvic Yap and Jeffrey Soriano, had earlier filed House Bill 3738 which aims to recognize and protect the rights of freelancers like couriers and delivery riders, along with millions of other workers identified under the measure as “independent contractors.”

Similar other bills are also pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Duterte said that in the absence of a law providing them protection from abuse, many freelancers are hired with vague and unclear conditions, leaving them to fend off for themselves in instances when payments for their services are delayed, unreasonably reduced, or worse, not given to them at all.

To shield them from these unfair labor practices, Duterte said HB 3738 seeks to make written contracts mandatory in obtaining the services of freelancers, along with providing them with night differential and hazard pay when applicable.

The bill also makes it unlawful to commit any form of retaliation arising from the acts of freelancers meant to protect their rights as workers.

To ensure that freelancers receive just compensation for services rendered, the bill makes it unlawful for a hiring party to pay them later than 15 days after the stated payment date in their contracts; or require them to accept less than the specified contract price as a condition for receipt of compensation, Duterte noted.

Under the bill, written contracts in hiring freelancers should include the itemization of all services to be provided; details of compensation and other benefits, including rate, method and schedule of payment; period of employment; grounds for breach of contract on the part of both the hiring party and the freelancer; and the Tax Identification Number (TIN) of the freelancer.

Duterte said the bill also encourages freelancers to register with the BIR and file and pay taxes.

Freelancers are covered by the tax relief provisions under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) law and the Barangay Micro Business Enterprises Act under HB 3738.

Complaints about any violation of the bill’s provisions may be filed with the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) through the Undersecretary for Workers with Special Concerns, the bill also states.

Citing a 2019 Global Gig Economy Index report from financial services provider Payoneer, Duterte said the Philippines ranks 6th among countries with the fastest-growing market for freelancers.

Payoneer said this growth has contributed to a 35 percent rise in freelance earnings.

Independent estimates show that there are about 1.5 million to 2 million Filipino freelancers in the country.

FoodPanda Philippines has filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in response to the June 2022 decision affirming in favor of the terminated delivery riders of the company. RGL


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