Deliveryman Death from Overwork

Hajon Lee

The recent death of a deliveryman from overwork has brought great attention to the delivery service sector. There have already been 15 deaths and numbers are continuously increasing. So why are there so many death cases now? The rapid increase in the volume of delivery caused by Covid-19 has increased the work of deliverymen by 50 percent. The deaths vary in the field as there were classification workers who do classification work in logistics, warehouse workers, and transportation workers who drove all night between hub terminals.

The common factor about their death was the chronic long-term labor in the delivery industry. The cause that makes the delivery workers unable to work for a moderate time is the wage problem which is the fundamental cause.

The root problem is in the system of it all. The way deliverymen are treated and their environment is an issue, but also how people conceive their delivery package. It wasn’t a surprise that The Federation of Korean Trade Unions warned of its first general strike in 61 years. At the time, the union, which demanded the Korea Post to hire 2,000 more workers, abolish Saturday delivery, and work five days a week, withdrew the strike after negotiations. CJ Korea Express and Hanjin Shipping, where workers have died one after another, are proposing measures to prevent overwork, including hiring more workers.

However, some point out that there is no information about who actually pays for the measures, and that it is just a presentation on the spot. A short-term solution to break the vicious cycle of overwork death caused by long hours of labor is to reduce the burden of work due to the input of personnel into classification work.

Efforts should also be made to improve the working environment, including settlement of five-day work week. Since courier workers are not subject to the Labor Standards Act, most of them work six days a week without legal holidays, annual leave and vacation systems. When asked whether people could tolerate delays in delivery to improve the working environment of delivery workers, 87.2 percent said they could do so. We need to be more patient and be able to tell the company that we don’t need something in a hurry.

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