SHANGHAI – As China launches its annual “Double Eleven” sales season, ZTO express delivery man Zhao Shugen is entering its busiest season of the year. Last year, the country’s courier services processed 3.96 billion packages between November 1 and 11.
This is a difficult work. Zhao, who has given a pseudonym because he is not authorized to speak to the press, told Sixth Tone that he works 15 hours a day, delivering between 500 and 600 packages to addresses in the new area. Pudong in Shanghai. At 1.1 yuan per package, he earns about 10,000 yuan ($ 1,562) in a normal month.
ZTO and other parcel companies promised workers like him a raise in September, but many say the extra money is going to their bosses instead.
ZTO and the other five major Chinese parcel companies announced in late August that they would increase parcel delivery rates by 0.1 yuan per parcel from September 1. For an average worker, they estimated, this would translate to an increase of 500 yuan per month.
A delivery man rides a motorbike with lots of parcels in Shanghai, November 19, 2019. People Visual
Zhao said he has yet to take advantage of the price hike. âI always earn 1.1 yuan with every package I deliver,â he told Sixth Tone.
The catch is the decentralized structure of the delivery industry. Although delivery companies run many local operations, they outsource some stations to local franchisees. Franchisors hire and manage couriers themselves.
âThe extra 0.1 yuan per package was picked up by the station where I work,â Zhao said. “It seems that the people in charge of the delivery stations in this region all agree on this point – when I spoke with couriers from other companies, they said the same thing.”
In their announcements, the express companies wrote that the extra money was intended for the drivers. One of the companies, YTO Express, stressed that the extra money was not intended for local operators and urged them not to “intercept” it. It seems that many local operators have done just that.
Of a dozen couriers surveyed by Sixth Tone in Shanghai’s six districts in October, half said their wages had not increased since the announcement. Drivers reported pre-hike rates ranging from 0.9 yuan to 1.5 yuan, with the lowest recorded in the Songjiang Suburban District and the highest in the downtown Jing’an District.
A ZTO spokesperson said there are channels for couriers to file complaints if local managers do not pass on the extra pay. “We will punish those responsible if they break the rule.”
âIn Shanghai, no courier should earn less than one yuan per package – it’s abnormal if their income is less than that. The parcel delivery charge should be between 1.2 and 2 yuan depending on the specific location, âhe added.
Zhao said that he and his colleagues tried to call ZTO to complain, but the calls were never answered. âIt’s unnecessary,â Zhao said.
When Sixth Tone contacted two delivery stations in Pudong, officials said it was “impractical” to comment on the wage hike.
In the suburban Songjiang district, Huang Yabin, who works with YTO Express, said he heard about the hike on the news, but not from his manager.
âI asked my boss for the money and he refused my request. My parcel delivery charge is always less than 1 yuan. My boss set the rate instead of following the corporate rule, âhe told Sixth Tone.
Contacted by Sixth Tone on Tuesday, a YTO Express media relations manager said the company was working in detail to ensure that September’s wage hike benefits its front-line couriers. He said the company was unaware of local franchises that did not pass the pay rise on to couriers and would investigate any reports.
Packages are stacked at a ZTO warehouse in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, November 14, 2016. People Visual
Some workers expect a pay rise. A ZTO employee in downtown Jing’an District, nicknamed Miao, said her manager promised to pay an additional 0.1 yuan per package after the policy was introduced. However, Miao has yet to receive her full salary for September, so she said it was too early to be sure she would get the full amount.
Since Miao mainly delivers parcels to office buildings, she said her job is easier than most other companies in the industry. âPackages can be delivered directly to recipients in office buildings during working hours, but you have to call them to make an appointment for delivery to apartment buildings otherwise they could file a complaint. Miao said she earned just over 10,000 yuan a month.
With the start of the Double Eleven period, it is a time of high stakes for workers.
Huang delivers about 500 parcels per day in a regular month, but during the Double Eleven shopping festival, the amount may exceed 2,000. “My income may be four to five times the average month level,” he said. he told Sixth Tone.
Zhao said he typically worked 20 hours a day in the period of previous years to deliver more than 1,000 packages. âMy income will certainly increase, but the number of complaints I receive will also increase,â he said.
“The fines are up to 500 yuan per complaint – sometimes they turn an entire day’s work into ashes,” Zhao said, adding that even in months on average, he is fined around 1,000 yuan. for customer complaints.
âIt’s hard to find people willing to deliver these days. Although a salary of 10,000 yuan per month is guaranteed, the workload is huge, âZhao said. âWe work seven days a week, year round, with no time off unless you find someone to replace you. Most of the kids at my station quit after a few months.
Publisher: David Cohen.
(Header image: A delivery man holds parcels in front of a wholesale market in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, November 1, 2021. People Visual)