Caixin
Jan 29, 2021 08:47 PM
ECONOMY

No Holiday for China’s Delivery Workers as Covid-19 Curbs Travel

A delivery driver delivers parcels in Beijing on Thursday.
A delivery driver delivers parcels in Beijing on Thursday.

At least 10 delivery firms have said they will provide uninterrupted service during the Lunar New Year holiday, most for the first time, as the government attempts to ensure distribution of daily necessities after discouraging travel due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

The 10 include some of the leading companies in the sector — SF Holding Co. Ltd., ZTO Express Co. Ltd., STO Express Co. Ltd. and Yunda Holding Co. Ltd.

While in previous years SF has never suspended operations during holiday periods, this will be the first time the other three have provided delivery services over the seven-day national vacation that begins on Feb. 11. The companies announced their intentions via statements.

“This is the first industry-wide trial in which business won’t be suspended during the Lunar New Year,” said a person from one of 10 companies told Caixin. In previous years, couriers would accept items, but wouldn’t ship them until after the holiday. This year they will operate as normal and ship goods once they receive them, said the person, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The move comes as China’s central government on Monday issued a notice encouraging logistics companies to maintain normal operations during the holiday to ensure deliveries to the millions of people expected to stay at home during the nation’s biggest vacation due to travel restrictions amid resurgent outbreaks of Covid-19. Usually hundreds of millions of people travel during Lunar New Year in China, where people journey to their hometowns or visit relatives to celebrate.

This year to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, the government has encouraged people to stay at home during the vacation and implemented tough quarantine restrictions on inter-provincial travel.

To guarantee they have a sufficient workforce to maintain operations, some of the delivery companies have rolled out subsidies to encourage employees to stay at work.

STO said on Wednesday that it will give every deliver worker an average one-off subsidy of 2,500 yuan ($386), while JD Logistics Inc. pledged to give out 100 million yuan in total to employees working during the vacation. Cainiao Network Technology Co. Ltd., the logistics arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., announced it would set aside 200 million yuan together with Alibaba’s online platform Tmall for delivery people who work during the holiday.

But even with the subsidies, there are still fewer people willing to work than normal. STO said in a statement that around 40,000 delivery people had volunteered to work during the Lunar New Year, representing roughly one-third of its workforce.

“Understaffing will lead to longer delivery times,” said the person at one of the firms. SF has also warned such scenario to emerge.

Delivery companies also must pay employees triple the normal rates for working during a holiday, which will significantly increase labor costs. To ease the cash strain, SF has added a 10 yuan fee for every item shipped, the first of the 10 to adjust shipping fees.

The other six companies are China Post Group Corp. Ltd., JD Logistics Inc., YTO Express Group Co. Ltd., Best Express Holdings Ltd., Deppon Logistics Co. Ltd., and the logistics arm of e-commerce company Suning.com.

Contact reporter Lu Yutong (yutonglu@caixin.com) 

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