Hong Kong Deliveroo riders say the delivery platform’s HK$20,000 Covid-relief fund was ‘false hope’ for sick workers

  • Riders’ Rights Concern Group says it has not heard of any successful applications so far for the fund, though a few infected workers have received HK$2,000
  • Neither Deliveroo nor Foodpanda, the city’s two major food delivery platforms, offers sick pay for couriers, who typically have no income if they are ill
Sue Ng |

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Deliveroo has about 10,000 couriers in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong’s Deliveroo couriers have accused the company’s Covid-19 fund of being a “false hope” for infected riders, as some are still in dispute with the delivery platform regarding HK$20,000 (US$2,552) of aid.

In April 2020, Deliveroo, one of the city’s largest food delivery platforms with about 10,000 couriers, announced a collaboration with ZA Bank to launch a Covid-19 emergency relief fund, providing a one-off payment of HK$20,000 to infected riders. At the time of the announcement, Deliveroo did not state when the fund would end.

Riders’ Rights Concern Group, which has reached more than 1,500 couriers in Hong Kong since it was founded last October, said it had not heard of any successful applications so far for the HK$20,000 fund, though a few infected workers had been given HK$2,000.

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In January, Hong Kong recorded its first case of a food delivery worker contracting Covid-19 amid the city’s fifth and worst wave of infections. In the following months, the concern group said it received many cases of infected riders seeking help.

Neither Deliveroo nor Foodpanda, the city’s other major delivery platform, offers sick pay for delivery workers, who typically have no income if they are infected. When Deliveroo couriers report a positive infection, their account is shut until they present a negative result, which can last for about 14 days according to riders.

“When I called Deliveroo in February, they confirmed that the HK$20,000 fund was available. And on their website it still mentioned the fund,” said Gaa-wing, one of the concern group’s founders who asked to be identified only by her nickname.

Riders’ Rights Concern Group says this screenshot is from February 18. It says that infected Deliveroo riders can apply for and claim up to HK$20,000. Photo: Captured online by Riders’ Rights Concern Group

The group said it had contacted three delivery workers who had applied for HK$20,000 from the relief fund in March but only received HK$2,000.

“The riders all thought that they were applying for the HK$20,000 … The HK$2,000 fund is really not enough, which is just equivalent to a full-time rider’s two-day income,” said Gaa-wing. “It gives them a huge disappointment and a false hope.”

It was not until March 31 – after a rider emailed Deliveroo about applying for the fund – that couriers were told the fund ended months ago in December 2021.

A screenshot from Keffrey* of an email from March 31, in which Deliveroo tells its riders that its HK$20,000 funding scheme ended last December. Photo: Handout

“ZA has launched a new ZA Relief Fund to our riders as if you are a policyholder of ZA Insurer. You will receive some Covid-19 coverages,” read the email, which did not disclose the amount workers would receive under the new relief fund.

When asked about the number of riders who received the HK$20,000 fund, Deliveroo did not reveal any details to Young Post. The company said it was in “further discussion” with ZA International, ZA Bank’s parent company, regarding the details of their partnership to support infected couriers.

“As the negotiations are ongoing, this may affect recent rider applications. We will inform applicants of any updates as soon as possible,” Deliveroo said.

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One part-time Deliveroo courier, Keffrey*, a 19-year-old student, received an isolation order from the government and could not work from March 15 to 28. As soon as he got the order, he applied for the HK$20,000 fund – only to receive HK$2,000 on April 6.

“Honestly, I was really happy when I found out about the HK$20,000 [fund] and was very disappointed when it was only HK$2,000,” said the student, who works in Tuen Mun and makes up to HK$1,200 a day.

“The HK$2,000 aid is basically useless … A lot of my friends who work full-time can make more than HK$2,000 per day and [shouldn’t the] fund support you for 14 days?” he said.

“For full-time workers who cannot work … they lost HK$28,000 [but] only got HK$2,000 back.”

A food delivery workers face hazardous conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Nora Tam

The concern group suggested that Deliveroo should adjust its support to be more similar to sick pay.

“Maybe the format can change to something like sick pay, which gives workers money according to their average income,” said Gaa-wing, adding that the application process for the fund was too “complicated” and “slow”.

“It failed to provide riders with instant support and just left them in helplessness.”

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Raja*, a part-time Deliveroo rider who works in Sham Shui Po, was infected in February, but he said he still had not received money from Deliveroo.

The 23-year-old applied for the original relief fund in March and was told on a phone call that he could get HK$20,000 if his application was successful. But after submitting the required documents, Raja heard nothing from the company.

After hearing from other Deliveroo riders that they had received HK$2,000, Raja said he had no option but to accept the amount if it was given to him.

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“It’s a big scam. They are giving out HK$2,000 so that riders don’t go against them,” the courier explained.

He said the company was making excuses and, at the end of the day, would never pay HK$20,000 to its delivery workers.

“They don’t want people to quit, so they give HK$2,000 to keep them quiet,” he said.

*Full names withheld at interviewees’ request.

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