Heatwave charge for Asia’s delivery employees doesn’t ease climatic stress

5 min read
Heatwave charge for Asia's delivery employees doesn't ease climatic stress

In the midst of Vietnam’s recent heat wave, users using the Grab app to get food or a ride found they’d have to pay an additional fee.

Several months after the Southeast Asian platform firm announced a rainy-weather tax in Vietnam, an additional fee was imposed when the local temperature exceeded 35 degrees Celsius.

“Working under such bad weather conditions can be tough on our driver- and delivery partners. We want to ensure they are fairly compensated for it,” according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a Grab spokesperson released a statement.

Grab’s motorcycle taxi, food, and grocery deliveries, and quick delivery services cost 5,000 Vietnamese dongs ($0.21) each in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, while the 3,000 dong fee is waived in those cities.

A Grab driver in Ho Chi Minh City named Nguyen Tuan said the extra compensation gave him and his colleagues motivation to work in any weather.

“If I don’t work, where do I get money to eat? I make a living day by day,” Tuan, a food-delivery and motorcycle-taxi driver, says he works several hours a day.

Delivery and ride-hailing platforms are increasingly being scrutinized for the climate-warming emissions they produce as a result of traffic congestion and the packaging they use.

In contrast, little attention has been paid to the challenges faced by riders and drivers in extreme weather, as they often work long shifts, wait for orders on street corners, or have limited access to medical care.

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As climate change brings more frequent and intense heatwaves and floods around the world, questions are being raised about the health effects on the most vulnerable in the labor force, which are only now being brought to the public’s attention.

As e-commerce and the “platformization” of work have grown in popularity in recent years, so has the demand for gig work, which advocates say provides both parties with greater freedom and flexibility. The pandemic only fueled the demand for the product.

Protesters, on the other hand, argue that this system exploits workers who have few other options and undermines hard-won labor rights by treating gig workers in developing countries as casual workers.

High humidity and temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius can lead to heat stress, according to the International Labor Organization. If a person’s body temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius, they may suffer from heat stroke.

Delivery workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are exempt from taking a mandatory break from 12.30 pm to 3 pm, between June 15 and September 15, because of the “risks of exposure to high temperatures” they face during the summer which can reach 45 degrees Celsius.

Employers who require their workers to work during these hours must provide them with cold drinking water, first aid kits, cooling facilities, and rest areas with shady cover.

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