People’s Action Party (PAP) parliamentarian Ong Teng Koon’s attempt to provide career advice to desperate food delivery riders went awry when he asked them whether they want to become Singapore Post (SingPost) postmen instead.

Food delivery riders who rely on Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) to make a living were abruptly left in the lurch when the Government announced a ban on PMD use on public footpaths earlier this month. Those who flout the ban will face fines of up to S$2,000 and/or imprisonment of up to three months, after a grace period ends on 31 Dec.

The abrupt ban, which went into effect the day after it was announced, caused intense dissatisfaction among hundreds of food delivery riders who flocked to PAP MPs’ Meet-the-People sessions, seeking an alternative solution.

Food delivery riders have lamented that the ban, which was imposed after a spate of accidents between PMD riders and pedestrians, will severely curtail their incomes and have held that the bulk of clashes between PMD riders and pedestrians are not caused by food delivery riders who use their PMDs for work, not play.

This Monday, a group of about 30 food delivery riders gathered at Woodlands Avenue 5 to meet Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Ong Teng Koon to raise their concerns about the PMD ban. Mr Ong proceeded to give the PMD users alternative career suggestions, which did not go over so well with the riders.

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The exchange was caught on camera and published on Mothership’s Facebook page. Mr Ong first asked the riders whether they could use bicycles but was told that bicycles would not allow them to take as many orders and make the same living as they do now.

MP Ong: “You prefer bicycle?”
GrabFood rider: “Bicycle can ah, how many orders can we do? First order you can get $5, three orders $15. Makan now how much already? Correct or not? I teach, you understand. We are running like hell, like crazy, to earn a living.”
FoodPanda rider: “No matter rain or sunshine, we still ride just to deliver food to our customers.”
MP Ong: “Are you open to me helping you find another kind of job?”

The food delivery riders said that they are open to go for other jobs while one rider reminded the MP that they bought the approved UL2722 PMD “only for working, not for play.”

Mr Ong then goes on to suggest that he could help the food delivery riders become SingPost postmen. Even when the PMD users say that they don’t want to work as postmen, Mr Ong pushes and says he can help with the postman job:

MP Ong: “I understand, I understand. If you don’t mind, my colleagues from e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) and NTUC (National Trades Union Congress) is here to help. How about postman? Postman you open or not? For Singapore Post?”
GrabFood rider: “Postman? Abang, now I’m telling you lah. Do you all people agree or not? Then we send postman then other people don’t need to eat lah. Don’t need to order lah. Don’t need to order makan lah.”
MP Ong: “I’m trying to help you.”
GrabFood rider: “Yeah but you said postman right? Do other people agree? Do you all agree or not? Do you all agree to do postman? [crowd shakes head and say no] You see.”
MP Ong: “We’ll try to help. If you need a job, there are some postman jobs. I’ll try to help you with the postman job.”

Dissatisfied, the GrabFood rider asked the PM what will be done for the riders in the short term. Mr Ong responded: “For the 3 or 6 months, we will try to help you with financial assistance, try to help you tide over this period. We try to solve it one case at a time lah. I don’t think there’s going to be one solution everyone also can.”

The GrabFood rider responded: “If you can ban in one day, why not you ban and try your best in one day! That’s the rationale and opinion from me.”

Mr Ong said, “We want to help you lah, and I hope you understand.” The video ends with the GrabFood rider holding the MP’s hand and saying, “Please, we need your help. everybody need your help.” Mr Ong replied: “I will do my best for you.”

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Mr Ong’s suggestion that becoming postmen could be an alternative path for displaced food delivery riders is interesting, especially given multiple accounts that emerged this year showing how overworked postmen are. The sight of overworked postmen quickly downing lunch during their mail route evoked immense public sympathy, as recently as this year.

SingPost reportedly delivers three million items of mail each day, adding up to about 3,000 items for each postman to deliver. Earlier this year, the Government revealed that postmen deliver a total of 38,000 parcels daily and make between 25 and 45 doorstep deliveries besides their other duties each day.

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