Resistance goes on as Meituan continues to exploit its workers
In recent years, online shopping and catering delivery platform becomes an emerging sector in China. Many ex-factory workers find themselves new jobs as delivery personnel. Their task is to deliver the products to their clients as quickly as possible. If a client rates their services as negative, their wages would be deducted. Thus, for a meager income, they risk their lives everyday on the highways. In 2018, many major service providers reduce workers' commission to “maintain their competitiveness”. As a result, workers in this sector launched several strikes to defend themselves. Among them, workers at Meituan launched the largest-scale action.
Our website reported that on 25 April 2018, Meituan's delivery personnel in Linyi City launched a strike. However, their employer, Meituan continued to reduce workers' commissions, offered substandard labour protection and drew up unfair enterprise policies, therefore, its workers in different branches staged numerous strikes. According to China Labour Bulletin's “Map of Chinese workers' collective actions”, hundreds of Meituan workers launched 47 industrial actions between May 2018 and April 2019 in different cities, to fight against the company's exploitation.
On 16 and 17 May 2018, over a hundred delivery workers called for a strike, as Meituan reduced their commission, from 6 to 7 Yuan per order to 3.5 Yuan per order, i.e. a 50% cut on their income. To make it worse, other subcontractors of Meituan also took this opportunity to reduce their fee and therefore, the cut went further and deeper. Until 24 and 25 April 2019, Meituan delivery workers in Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Yancheng also organized strikes to protest against wages deduction.
Apart from commission cut, workers have also fought against other policies implemented by Meituan, such as the merciless wage deduction mechanism, extremely short delivery time, lack of labour insurance and lack of high temperature subsidy. Due to an increase of service providers in China, Meituan announced that it had recorded a loss of 11 billion yuan in March 2019. However, analysts pointed out that Meituan had a profit growth in its food delivery section, the actual loss came from over-expansion. It is estimated that as more competitors, such as Baidu and Ele.me enter the markets and more different marketing strategies are coming up, there would be more customers but also bloodier competition. Most likely the frontline workers, namely the delivery personnel would have to pay the price.
As a pioneer in this emerging industry, Meituan is infamously known as a sweatshop-like employer. At the strike in May 2018, a worker in Chongqing told the media that he would be permanently blocked from his company account due to his participation in the strike. It is also reported that managers in some branches would send tugs to attack workers and forced them to return to work. Some branches’ managers would offer short-term subsidies, to attract workers to resume their jobs, in order to break down the strike. Once the strike is over, these short-term subsides would be cancelled too. All these gestures illustrate that Meituan does not care about labour rights, it aims only to maximize its profit through exploitation.
Many workers are now entering platform economy, hoping to earn their living in this new sector. However, behind their glamorous images, most of the enterprises make their profit through labour rights violation and exploitation to maximize their profits. Meituan aims to keep its market share by cutting down the delivery personnel’s commission. Yet workers fight back and launch strike, in the end, Meituan loses more clients to other service platforms. So, when will the employers finally learn their lessons?