Business / Corporate

Uber Eats delivery staff in Japan form labor union

Kyodo

The Japanese staff of Uber Technologies Inc.’s food delivery service Uber Eats have formed a labor union to negotiate contract terms and seek improved working conditions.

Uber and ride-hailing rival Lyft Inc. have faced criticism for not providing their contract workers, known as “platformers,” with accident insurance and other benefits enjoyed by regular workers.

“We would like to improve the working environment for Uber Eats delivery staff through negotiations,” Tomio Maeba, chairman of the union, said at a Thursday news conference in Tokyo attended by a dozen contract workers.

The union wants the company to be aware of their disadvantageous working environment and aims to secure “safer and more stable working conditions for all platform workers,” Maeba, 29, said.

The union, formed by 17 platformers, also plans to request that the Japanese unit of the U.S. company ensure fair treatment for delivery riders and review how distance-based wages are set.

There are an estimated 15,000 Uber Eats platformers in Japan. Delivery staff using bicycles and motorcycles are directed by the company to pick up food and beverages at restaurants via the Uber Eats application.

Yoshihiko Kawakami, a lawyer supporting the union, said the company should accept its request in compliance with the labor union law.

“We will sincerely address delivery partners’ needs while always seeking a better way for them,” an Uber Eats spokeswoman said.

On Tuesday, Uber introduced an injury compensation program for delivery staff in Japan in cooperation with Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. The company said it would pay all insurance premiums and up to ¥10 million ($93,000) in case of death.

In Japan, more than 3 million people are estimated to be working as freelancers, including contract workers, according to recent government data. The government is considering submitting a bill to the Diet next year to protect freelancers from being treated disadvantageously.

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