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Plea in SC seeks social security benefits for Ola, Uber, Swiggy, Zomato workers

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court praying for social security benefits for gig workers working at companies like Ola, Uber, Swiggy and Zomato. It also prays that the court recognises that these companies have violated the rights of its gig workers by controlling how they use their platforms. 

The plea was filed by the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers, a workers’ union which advocates for the rights of gig workers working for companies like Ola, Uber, Swiggy and Zomato, among others. Entrackr has seen a copy of the petition.

In the petition, the union argues that they fall under the definition of “unorganised workers” under India’s Unorganised Workers’ Social Welfare Security Act, 2008 and are therefore eligible for social security benefits. And because that hasn’t happened so far, they feel “exploited”. 

“Denial of social security to the said “gig workers” and the “platform workers” has resulted in their exploitation through forced labour within the meaning of Article 23 of the Constitution. The right to livelihood includes the right to work on decent and fair conditions of work,” the plea said.

Gig workers in India have long complained about an uncertain income, a low base pay, and an algorithm that they say pushes them to ride for hundreds of kilometres a day in return for disproportionately low cash. All this, with little to no social security benefits, as is the case with gig workers worldwide.

Last year, India enacted the Code on Social Security, 2020 which promises to extend social security benefits to these workers, but is yet to be implemented. 

We have reached out to Ola, Uber, Swiggy and Zomato for comment and will update the story if they respond. 

The union also claimed that these platform companies exercise complete control over how workers can use their apps even though the relationship between them is just supposed to be of “partners”. 

“The mere fact that their employers call themselves “aggregators” and enter into the so-called “partnership agreements” does not take away the fact that there exists a jural relationship of employer and employee; master and servant and worker within the meaning of all applicable laws,” the petition said.

The contracts, the plea said, are a mere device to “disguise” the real nature of the relationship between the companies and their workers. 

Entrackr has previously reported on the plight of workers working for companies like Swiggy, Zomato, Ola and Uber during the ravaging second wave of the coronavirus crisis. These workers were impacted by the pandemic just like everyone else, but could not afford to take a break since their household depended on their income. 

These companies have repeatedly claimed that they compensate their workers “fairly”, however, workers have disputed that claim. In August, Entrackr tailed a Zomato delivery executive for an entire day and found that on average, he was left with Rs 11,000-12,000 a month after accounting for all expenses. 

The petition has been settled by Senior Advocates Indira Jaising and Gayatri Singh and has been filed through Advocate-on-Record Nupur Kumar.

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