Lazada fiasco: Gig workers should get protection under labour laws, groups tell Gov’t

FOLLOWING a strike by workers of an e-commerce platform company, a veteran union leader urged the Government to revamp the Employment Act to include protection for gig economy workers.  

“The Government cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of our gig economy workers. These people do not have protection under the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) or Social Security Organisation (SOCSO).  

“Our e-commerce platform operators must be compelled to provide adequate protection to their workers under the legislative process,” the Penang Malaysia Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary K Veeriah told FocusM.  

Yesterday, over 50 independent contractors (IC) hired by Lazada staged a peaceful protest after the latter enacted a new payment scheme.  

Under the new scheme which was implemented overnight, Lazada will no longer provide the minimum payment of RM180 for every 40 products sent daily.  

Instead, the ICs will only get a commission of RM1.11 for every package delivered. The protesters claimed that the policy was implemented without consulting them.  

“Our basic pay has been revoked. They told us that we will be paid a commission for every product sent despite being promised that our payment scheme will improve as more orders come in.  

“In fact, even the commission for every parcel delivered was reduced from RM1.50 to RM1.11. This is unfair as we pay the rental for our vehicles, petrol and other costs,” Malaysia Gazette reported the group’s spokesperson Mohd Ashraf Abdullah as saying.  

Touching on the matter, Veeriah said that the gig economy is growing at a rapid pace, employing thousands of workers in an industry that is now worth billions.  

Despite the rapid growth, their workers are not covered under a proper employment contract as the industry is relatively new in the economy.  

“While some who work in the gig economy do contribute to SOCSO, the payment is not made mandatory as a whole, leaving workers’ safety at risk.  

“In fact, I have seen e-hailing riders getting into accidents while on the job. Do they or their families get any compensation in case they suffer physically or lose their lives?” Veeriah queried.  

In Lazada’s case, he criticised the former for only giving them one day’s notice before implementing the new payment scheme.  

“The problem here is these e-commerce entrepreneurs do not recognise them as employees. The job is considered outsourced and they are paid a certain rate for the job instead of getting wages.  

“But the weird thing is that they are told to wear the company’s T-shirts and other apparels while not recognising them as their workers,” Veeriah mentioned.    

Irresponsible to change contract unilaterally  

Echoing Veeriah’s sentiments, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) said the Government needs to enact laws to provide better protection for gig economy workers.  

“The problem suffered by these people protesting shows that gig economy workers need immediate help in terms of better legislative protection.  

“The problem now is that they are categorised as ICs who work independently, which excludes them from our existing labour laws,” its central committee member Choo Chon Kai said.  

Hurling brickbats at Lazada, the PSM leader described the former’s decision to alter its contract unilaterally as irresponsible and inhumane.  

“Gig workers should never be treated like products of services, where you can change its rate whimsically.  

“PSM urges Lazada to listen to their grouses and retain the earlier payment rates,” Choo remarked. – Jan 4, 2022.  

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