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"You tend to bear the burden of the cost": A food delivery worker on the petrol hike

On 16 February, the Singapore government announced a petrol hike, framed as a way to address climate change. Premium grade petrol went up by about 23%, while intermediate grade petrol increased by about 18%. While the government is offered rebates to soften the impact, delivery riders and private hire vehicle drivers have expressed shock at this immediate rise, which imposes extra costs and will eat into their income.

For this week’s special issue, Jamie Teo, a food delivery worker on all of the major food delivery applications (Grab, Foodpanda, and Deliveroo), shares her experience.

By Jamie Teo, a food delivery worker

As a courier, you tend to bear the burden of the cost. It’s only a matter of how far you’re willing to go and how much you think you can earn back in the future. Occasionally you’ll see, on Facebook or Telegram, something about a rider or private hire vehicle driver who earns upwards of S$5,000 a month. During the circuit breaker last year, Deliveroo claimed that its top rider made over S$7,000 in March. You spend more, upgrade your vehicle, get something faster or more comfortable, perhaps a bit safer, and of course you hope your earnings go up.

So far, things are still okay. Most of us seem to be able to make decent money, far more than we could make flipping burgers at MacDonald’s for S$7 an hour. Sometimes, this is used against us. You can earn good money at your own time in a brainless job, so don’t complain so much. Don’t rock the boat. That’s what they say.

So there’s us, the couriers, and them, the companies. Big or small, all the same. They can be your Lalamove or Grabfood or Deliveroo. They can also be your small courier companies where the dispatchers are all makciks. Doesn’t matter. That’s them. They sit in the office. Then there’s us. All the riders and drivers; it doesn’t matter if you cycle, or ride, or drive a car or van or lorry. We are the ones out there.

So there’s us riders, and there’s the companies who rely on our services.

And then, of course, you must not forget our government. When it comes to the government, it’s usually a matter of luck. Why luck? Because we don’t matter as a factor when they make decisions. To them, we are irrelevant. So if we’re lucky, their decisions don’t completely fuck us all. For example, they want to expand the cycling paths around the island. For the riders who cycle, that’s good. We benefit. Other times, though, the government wants to do things like raise GST from 7% to 9%. So that’s unlucky. We don’t benefit.

“Sometimes though, it’s very obvious that our rice bowls don’t matter to them.”

Sometimes though, it’s very obvious that our rice bowls don’t matter to them. The ban on personal mobility devices (PMDs), for example. Yeah, I know you hate that idiot doing 50km on the pavement. I do too. But when Lam Pin Min announced that overnight ban on PMDs, it screwed over quite a lot of us, who followed the rules, didn’t speed, didn’t go on the roads. Overnight, it literally became illegal for us to work using a PMD.

You see the same thing with this petrol price increase. Again it’s completely sudden. Again it’s quite clear that when they make their decisions, they never think about how it’ll affect us. You look at them, the 81 jokers in white. You think any of them ever did a day’s worth of manual work in their lives? Even the ones from the Singapore Armed Forces probably had their path all laid out for them.

“The point is that until we make noise together, until we get them to notice us, things won’t change.”

Sometimes they do notice us, though. Usually it’s after we make ourselves heard. Like at the Meet the People’s sessions after the PMD ban. Or in more indirect ways. For example, Lam Pin Min lost his seat in the election. I’m not sure how many Sengkang riders voted against him, to be honest. But the point is that until we make noise together, until we get them to notice us, things won’t change. Even after we make noise, there’s no guarantee that this fuel hike might be reversed. But we can at least say we tried. So I hope after reading this, that’ll you sign the petition, because that’s one way we can try.

Sign the petition at