From 13 November 200 food delivery workers in Hong Kong struck for two days against their employer Foodpanda. They took to the streets on 16 November with a 15 point series of demands. The police unfurled blue banners instructing them to disperse or face arrest as an illegal assembly — the charge that has seen many leading Hong Kong trade unionists given prison sentences of up to two years. But the workers did not cease their action.
The Foodpanda workers, many of whom are Asian migrants to Hong Kong, were protesting about many of the problems experienced by other delivery workers across the world: low pay; dependency on technologies and working practices that have been unilaterally imposed by employers; neglect of workers’ problems e.g. no allowances for delays in food preparation or final delivery; distance of travel by delivery drivers calculated without reference to actual route maps etc. They were joined in their protest by comrades of the union of catering workers (CHIEGUHK) which had been affiliated to the HKCTU before that union confederation was forced to close in September.
After the bosses initially accused Foodpanda workers of intimidation they soon reversed that stance, fearing a spread of the strike to the 10,000 other food delivery workers in Hong Kong, and called the workers into negotiations. On 18 November the bosses offered a settlement which was accepted by the Foodpanda union negotiators.
There is agitation amongst food delivery workers across the world, and even in mainland China, where delivery worker organiser Chen Guojiang has been in prison since March for his attempt to organise up to 80,000 delivery workers there. He is imprisoned on the catch-all charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Many international union links can and are being made. In the UK, the HK diaspora group Power to Hong Kongers alongside the Labour Movement Solidarity Campaign (@labsolidarity) is coordinating solidarity from delivery workers and unions in the UK.
On the same day as the delivery workers first took action, construction workers had launched a two-hour sit down protest at Hong Kong airport in protest against non-payment of wages. Despite the imprisonment of many Hong Kong union leaders and the authorities’ use of legal threats to close many of Hong Kong’s independent trade union organisations, Hong Kong workers maintain their determination to end injustice.