Two months after women gig workers engaged with Urban Company first went on strike alleging exploitative working conditions, the same women have yet again taken to the streets to protest against the company—this time against 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 strike first broke out on Monday morning and its peak had more than hundred workers. At least five workers that Entrackr spoke to said they had come to protest against the company from Jaipur. Urban Company’s upper management, which included its CEO Abhiraj Bhal, had discussions with the protesting women. However, the talks didn’t end the way the women workers would have wanted.
More than fifty protesting women stayed overnight in front of the company’s Gurugram office, in freezing temperatures. The women claimed that the company shut the gates on them at night, curtailing washroom access for them.
“We stayed overnight at the company office and they did not even let us use their washrooms. We had to scramble for space for that. And then this company boasts so much about the dignity of life and work,” a disgruntled worker told Entrackr.
At the heart of the strikes are two key issues. First, the workers are against a new system that will have them plan their monthly calendar of work and pay an upfront subscription fee to secure this work plan. Second, workers also said that a new categorisation system, called ‘Flexi’ has been introduced by Urban Company that seeks to penalise workers for their refusal to participate in the said subscription system, or for ‘low response rates.’
Workers who fall in this new category, who have a low response rate, say that they are denied work from Monday to Thursday.
The workers say that the new system takes away all their flexibility and is a key concern for women who also have kids, who run in the thousands of this gig workforce engaged with Urban Company. They believe that by working for a predetermined number of jobs means that they won’t be able to care for their children as they used to.
“I’m being made to work more, against my wishes. Under the new subscription plan, I will have to take on a minimum number of jobs per month, which means that I will be completely bound to Urban Company’s system,” a middle aged woman at the strike told Entrackr.
She said that this new subscription plan was antithetical to the entire idea of gig work, which is supposed to offer flexibility to workers engaged with the company.
“I’m not the company’s employee. I don’t have most of the benefits and social security net that Urban Company offers to its full time employees. Why then is the company trying to dictate my monthly work,” this woman asked.
Urban Company did not respond to Entrackr’s queries sent on Monday evening. Entrackr reached the location of the strike on Tuesday morning.
In October, beauticians engaged in gig work with Urban Company had gone on strike against the company complaining of an exploitative and unsafe working environment. Entrackr was the first to break the news of the protests.
Following the pressure mounted on the company due to the protests, Urban Company had buckled and listened to most of the workers’ demands, prime among which was bringing down the highest commission it charges from 30% to 25%.
However, not all of their concerns were addressed. For instance, the workers had also asked for multiple ratings parameters to be removed, especially highlighting “behavioural” ratings. This issue was not resolved by the company.