HO CHI MINH CITY (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) – As a heatwave engulfed northern and central Vietnam earlier this month, customers reaching for their phones to order food or a ride on the Grab app learnt they would have to pay a surcharge.
The extra fee, applied when the local temperature hits 35 deg C, came months after the South-east Asian platform company introduced a rainy-weather fee in Vietnam.
“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,” a Grab spokesperson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the surcharge is 5,000 Vietnamese dong (S$0.30) for Grab’s motorcycle taxi, and food and grocery deliveries, and 3,000 dong for its quick delivery service.
Mr Nguyen Tuan, a Grab driver in Ho Chi Minh City, said the additional payment gave him and his colleagues an incentive, as they have to work regardless of weather conditions.
“If I don’t work, where do I get money to eat? I make a living day by day,” said Mr Tuan, who puts in several hours a day as a food-delivery and motorcycle-taxi driver.
Platform companies offering delivery and ride-hailing services have come under increasing scrutiny for their planet-heating emissions linked to traffic congestion and packaging.
But there has been little discussion of how riders and drivers are dealing with extreme weather, as they often work long hours, waiting at street corners and outside restaurants for orders, and have limited access to medical care.
Only now is the issue starting to grab the public’s attention as climate change brings more frequent and intense heatwaves and floods around the world, raising questions about the health impacts for the must vulnerable in the labour force.
India, which is estimated to have more than 7.5 million gig workers, was hit by several heatwaves in April and May, with temperatures of 45-50 deg C recorded in parts of the country.
In May, a series of tweets from Mumbai resident Parizad Baria-Unwalla went viral as she described finding out that her food order was delayed because the delivery worker was walking to her home from the restaurant.
“It is a summer afternoon in Mumbai and the restaurant was 4.5 km away. This is absolutely inhumane,” she wrote, as she appealed to the Swiggy platform to get him a cab or an auto rickshaw, and offered to pay for the transport.
Dozens weighed in, with one user saying they had stopped ordering from Swiggy after a delivery worker cycled at least 5 km to their home at noon.
Swiggy did not respond to a request for comment.