In a measure that is bound to raise eyebrows, Urban Company has opted to go to court against its own women gig workers who are protesting a fresh change in its policies outside its Gurugram office since Monday morning. In its petition, the company appears to have called the protestors’ actions “illegal” and “unlawful”.
The case against the protestors has been filed in the Gurgaon District Court, which in turn has summoned them on Wednesday morning. In the petition, the company had named four workers in particular, alleging that they were representing other protestors whose numbers are “extremely large” and therefore it was not possible to “sue each person individually”. Entrackr has seen a copy of the petition.
This is perhaps the first time that a new age internet tech company in India has sued workers contracted to its platform for protesting against the company. For Urban Company, it is a sharp escalation of the issues it has been facing with a section of its workers.
In its suit, the company prayed to the court that it direct the protestors to vacate its premises and to direct them to not protest in front of their office compound further, among other things.
The fresh protests by several of its women gig workers who staged an overnight protest was prompted by two new company policies, including a new categorisation of workers and a new subscription service which they say will force them to take a set number of jobs a month, even if they don’t wish to.
The protests started on Monday and while there were discussions that happened with the company’s management including its CEO Abhiraj Bhal, no settlement was reached. Following the breakdown in these talks, some women decided to stay back at the company’s gates to continue the strike, which continued well until Tuesday evening.
In its petition, Urban Company claimed that these women have “laid out their bedding etc. across the main (closed) entrance of the office premises including the parking area corresponding to the office. Despite several attempts from the [company’s] personnel as well as Police officers, they have refused to disperse”.
We have reached out to Urban Company for comment and will update the story when they respond.
“This lawsuit is clearly to try and intimidate us into leaving the protest site. We’ll wait for the court hearing tomorrow,” women workers at the protest site told Entrackr.
Urban Company said that there have been some instances of dissatisfaction and concerns shared by some of its workers with respect to product prices and charges agreed by them, but the protestors have “decided to repeatedly derail the collaborative and cooperative process for their unknown ulterior motives and vested interests”.
It claimed that the protestors have resorted to “unlawful means” to destabilise Urban Company’s business, including threatening its employees and its other gig workers. Also attached with the petition are photos of the women protestors. Earlier on Tuesday, a Haryana Police official was seen taking pictures of these women.
“…the above actions of the [protestors] are illegal and unlawful. It seems that the [women] are bent upon making [Urban Company] agree to their further illicit and despicable demands, which will end up illegitimately enriching the [protestors] while the genuine concerns, if any, of the Partners remain unaddressed and unheard,” the company said in its petition.
The company said these workers unionised on a WhatsApp group and some of the messages shared in this group signal a “deeply meditated criminal conspiracy” against the company.