Top Image: Video screengrab / SGRoadVigilante
Earning a stable income as a food delivery rider these days might not be attractive. But nothing is uglier than humiliating another man to the point of desperation.
This week, Singaporeans got front-row seats to a turf war when an indignant local rider decided to name and shame a deliveryman who was allegedly operating illegally. The whole confrontation was recorded and shared online by SG Road Vigilante, racking up thousands of views.
It’s a tough watch. The man behind the camera, presumably a food delivery rider as well, had his phone trained on someone who he claimed to be an “illegal rider”.
The other party looks close to tears as he attempts to hide his identity. As the local rider moved his camera to expose the man’s bicycle number plate, the man being filmed could be heard saying, “I’m begging you, I’m begging you.”
The relentless questions and probing by the man behind the camera make the video hard to get through. In the video, his meek disposition and weak voice, clearly afraid, made my heart wrench. There’s no escaping the feeling that the man behind the camera is a bully, regardless of his intentions to report a supposed crime.
What drove the Singaporean rider—and many in the comments section who agree with the man’s action—to be such a tormentor?
It is an increasingly competitive market that has only become more saturated since the pandemic. In a 2022 Institute of Policy Studies survey, it was found that most riders were concerned about insufficient income, with 68 percent of them stating the reason to be an increasingly competitive industry.
The recently-approved policy change coming into effect in 2024 that mandates riders under 30 to contribute to their Central Provident Fund (CPF) also has riders concerned over reduced take-home pay.
Needless to say, riders are feeling uneasy.
In the rest of the video, the Singaporean is also seen demanding the receipt of the order the man was delivering, flashing it to the camera. Every time the other man tried to take his receipt back, I cringed as it was snatched away from him again.
Taking a step further, the man filming also demands the other delivery rider to show him his food delivery app profile—purportedly on Foodpanda. The account’s personal details and details of the order were subsequently exposed with nothing censored.
The fear of foreign workers taking up food delivery jobs manifests in the comments section.
The man filming made threats to call the police. Even as the rider sat on the curb, pleading and apologising, there was no mercy. Raising his voice, he told the man: “You’re not supposed to come to Singapore and do this.”
On the legal front, the Singaporean is not wrong. Answering a parliamentary question posed by Dr Lee Bee Wah on the percentage of foreigners who work in the food delivery industry, Minister of Manpower (MOM) Zaqy Mohamad made it clear that it is illegal for non-Singaporeans and non-Permanent Residents (PRs) to work as food delivery riders.
They can be fined up to $20,000 or subjected to imprisonment for up to two years, or both, under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
The age-old fear of getting immigrants taking away jobs is apparent. “I’m telling you, our jobs are getting fewer because of people like you,” says the Singaporean man in the video.
But instead of making a report to the authorities or the platform, he chose another route instead: exposing his identity for the world to witness. Of course, we don’t know what took place prior to filming, but it’s clear that the reaction is pretty harsh.
Drawing Immediate Flak Online
Clearly not garnering the support that he expected by playing the role of vigilante, the video instead tugged at the heartstrings of Singaporeans. Comments from Singaporeans criticising the man filming came pouring in.
Most urged for some empathy from the man filming. In a private Facebook group for Foodpanda riders, a rider said, “Let him do la, he may have some difficulties in earning in [Singapore]. Let him have some allowance. Why do you want to report and destroy his rice bowl [sic]?”
Many rebuked the Singaporean’s decision to shame and humiliate the man in the video, who clearly knew he was in the wrong. It bears considering that deportation could also be in the books.
A Climate of Uncertainty for Food Delivery Riders
More importantly, we need to realise that these are just the surface effects of the undercurrent of economic instability that food delivery riders are troubled with.
It points to a climate where food delivery riders are feeling threatened, and dissatisfied with their current wages. They are stressed and stretched to make ends meet. Seeing the gig economy becoming more saturated only adds to the pressure, so it’s easy to see other workers as targets to blame.
The long-drawn tension between foreign talent and Singaporean locals contributes to this culture of seeing non-Singaporeans as “others”. There has long been a perceived notion of foreigners stealing local jobs. In an IPS survey conducted in 2020, 50 percent of Singaporeans believe that immigrants take jobs away from Singaporeans.
It’s easy to see how an ‘every man for himself’ mentality can arise, especially if delivery riders might not feel that they can rely on the platforms to resolve their issues. While the platforms seem generally supportive of initiatives to improve protections and welfare for gig workers, the sentiment from the riders on the ground is a little less optimistic, with some saying they’re like “a patty in a burger”, facing pressure from both customers and the platform.
Even as platforms enact verification systems to confirm their riders’ identities, it seems like at least a few are slipping through the cracks. In some cases, it might not even be the platforms’ fault when local riders illegally outsource work to foreigners.
It’s easy to point fingers at the local and rebuke him for humiliating his competition, but let’s not forget that both men in the video are both ultimately victims of their situations. Right or wrong, both are trying to make a living.
Driven to do something he knows is illegal, the non-Singaporean is just trying to make ends meet. And the Singaporean, frustrated and unhappy with the struggle of trying to earn a living, simply snapped. Who’s to blame for it?