[Video] Sorting out the delivery deaths

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[Video] Sorting out the delivery deaths

Delivery drivers overworking has been an issue for many years. But it recently received a lot of attention when 16 workers died during a very busy time earlier last year. Among them were a Logen deliveryman based in Busan who committed suicide in October after leaving a three-page note. The note said that he earned less than two million won a month, which he said isn’t enough considering what it takes to be a delivery worker. He asked for corrective measures, while noting the abuse of power by his contractor.
 
Another delivery worker from Hanjin Transportation was found dead in October after leaving a message, “I’m too tired.”
 


Q. What’s the reason behind the deaths of deliverymen?
 
A. Because of the pandemic, people are ordering more from home, and that has increased demand for delivery. The number of packages being delivered has increased around 10 percent every year since 2015, but the growth this year was faster than normal. 
 
The number of parcels delivered 2019 totaled 2.79 billion. Fifty-seven percent of that, or 1.6 billion parcels, were delivered in the first half of 2020.
 
But the number of delivery workers has not increased. Market leader CJ Logistics has kept its delivery staff at 21,000, while Hanjin Transportation has increased its numbers by 14 percent and Lotte Global Logistics by 18 percent.
 


Q.What are the working hours for deliverymen?  
 
According to data provided by the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the majority of delivery workers were on the job at least 12 hours a day, and more than 14 hours during peak seasons.  
 
 
Q. Do we know whether the deaths were actually work related?  
 
It’s hard to tell.
 
Among the 16 delivery workers that have passed away last year, the death of Seo Hyeong-uk from CJ Logistics was confirmed as an “industrial accident.” Seo had a heart attack in July. According to his family, Seo did not have any illnesses, but started having chest pains after his workload jumped up following the pandemic. Seo delivered 7,000 packages a month.
 
Kang Min-wook from a task force designed to prevent deaths of delivery workers said it’s difficult to prove the link between death and overwork because it’s not easy to determine their working hours, which is essential to determine whether it is an industrial accident. He added there are a lot of unreported deaths of delivery workers - although he did not provide data comparing the mortality rate of delivery workers to the average mortality rate.
 
Kang Min-wook from a task force designed to prevent deaths of delivery workers

Kang Min-wook from a task force designed to prevent deaths of delivery workers

The Korea Integrated Logistics Association said in September that the amount of parcels to be delivered this year is projected to jump more than 30 percent due to the impact of Covid-19.  
 
 
Q. Why are deliverymen forced to overwork?
 
Most deliverymen are independent operators. They sign a contract with a local delivery contractor, which functions as a middleman. Signing a contract with a logistics company gives the contractor the right to deliver the company’s packages in designated areas.
 
Drivers are often subjected to abuse of power by their contractors and logistics firms. They describe their contract with the contractor as a slave contract. Not being able to leave work without finding a replacement is one of the provisions. They also complain of logistics firms’ abuse of power, like being forced to paint their own trucks to match the color of the company.  
 
 
Q. Apart from settling the abuse of power, what do delivery workers want from the logistics companies?
 
Their biggest complaint is long working hours from the time they spend sorting and collecting parcels they need to deliver from a sub terminal to loading them.
 
In the past, it only took one or two hours for a delivery worker to collect the packages from a sub terminal. These days, it could take up to eight hours.
 
Delivery workers argue that sorting parcels is not part of their job, and that they’re doing it all for free, while logistics companies believe the task is part of their job.
 
 
Q. What are logistics companies proposing?

In response to the demands, CJ Logistics announced in October it was adding 4,000 workers to help sort packages at sub terminals starting in November. The company also said it will make sure that all delivery workers are registered for industrial accident insurance by the first half of next year.  
 
Hanjin Transportation and Lotte Global Logistics also announced plans to employ 1,000 additional workers each to sort parcels.  
The government has also got involved.
 
In November, the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Land, Transport and Infrastructure announced a set of guidelines aimed at enhancing delivery working conditions, like setting the maximum number of daily working hours for delivery workers in accordance with their workload.
 

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BY JIN MIN-JI  VIDEO BY JEON TAE-GYU [jeon.taegyu@joongang.co.kr] 
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