Parcel delivery industry urged to avoid 'rat race'
A courier delivers orders from an online fresh produce platform for residents quarantined at home due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, on Dec 13, 2021. [Photo by Hu Xuejun/for China Daily]
The regulator of China's booming parcel delivery industry, which has handled a record 100 billion parcels this year, has urged enterprises in the sector to maintain good market order, avoid becoming involved in a rat race and better protect couriers' legal rights.
Ma Junsheng, head of the State Post Bureau, asked the industry to tackle the "rat race", saying it had hindered the sector's high-quality development.
He made the remarks at a teleconference with enterprises on Dec 3.
"We should take a firm stand against the 'rat race' in the industry, prevent unfair competition and oppose actions that harm the interests of the industry and employees," he said, adding that it is essential to maintain an orderly market and a healthy environment for the industry.
On Wednesday, Chen Kai, deputy head of the bureau, reiterated the warning and urged companies to expand the market and seek development from different perspectives.
Major parcel delivery companies have carried out programs to better protect their workers.
YTO Express' headquarters carries out inspections at the beginning of each month to ensure couriers receive their full income on time.
The platform has cut evaluations of affiliated branches and parcel delivery stations by 43 percent to reduce pressure on them.
It also established a foundation with funding of more than 20 million yuan ($3.14 million) to ensure the families of every employee won't return to poverty because of disease outbreaks or natural disasters. If affiliate companies go broke, the foundation will be able to pay couriers' salaries.
ZTO Express will hold 100 face-to-face meetings across the country with front-line couriers to hear their problems and tackle them accordingly.
The first meeting was held in Shanghai, with more than 30 front-line couriers invited to the company's headquarters.
They asked 20 questions, including ones about delivery fees and how to handle complaints, and received answers from team leaders at the headquarters.
In July, ZTO set up a department to assist couriers' development and invest in couriers' social insurance, medical services and professional training.
The company has established an evaluation system for couriers' professional ability and provides incentives based on their career development and improvements in professionalism.
From the start of the year to Wednesday, China's parcel delivery industry had handled 100 billion parcels, compared with 83.3 billion for all of last year.
With the development of e-commerce, more parcel delivery companies have joined the industry, sparking a price war.
Users have seen the price of sending a parcel plummet from nearly 20 yuan to less than 10, and even as low as 6 to 7 yuan.
To attract customers through lower prices, some companies cut couriers' salaries to reduce costs, dealing a blow to couriers' rights and the development of the industry.
In July, the bureau and seven ministry-level government agencies released a guideline designed to protect the rights of express delivery workers, providing the country's several million couriers with more stable salaries and better social insurance.
Chen Kai, deputy head of the bureau, told a news conference last month that the industry will set a standard wage in accordance with the labor input.
He also said that express delivery companies will be evaluated on their protection of couriers' rights.
Six major parcel delivery companies, including ZTO, YTO, STO and Yunda, say they have increased delivery fees since September to boost couriers' incomes and better protect their rights.
Express delivery companies have started to charge an extra 0.1 yuan per parcel, with the extra money to go into couriers' pockets.
An experienced courier usually handles about 200 parcels a day, which means the increase would boost their monthly income by about 500 yuan.
ZTO said the extra money will be paid to couriers via the digital wallet in the company's mobile app, and parcel delivery stations will not be allowed to lower current delivery fees.
YTO said the increased income must be given to front-line couriers, and provincial offices or parcel delivery outlets will not be allowed to withhold the money.
The company will carry out inspections to ensure the money goes into couriers' pockets.