Gig workers hit by fuel price surge

The rising fuel prices have impacted the earnings of gig workers. App-based food delivery workers gather near a restaurant awaiting orders from customers in Hyderabad.   | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

In 2019, Mohammed Fahimuddin used to take home ₹1,000-₹1,200 daily for a 12-hour shift of driving his cab. On February 25, 2021, he took home ₹500 after driving 210 km picking and dropping commuters in Hyderabad.

“We cannot protest. Our savings have been wiped out during lockdown. At least at this critical moment, the government should step in to help us out. Why doesn’t the Indian government deploy an app that will take 5% commission instead of 30% we are paying to a foreign firm,” says Mr. Fahimuddin, a cab driver who lives in Mallapur.

“The diesel rate in the city is ₹88.69 per litre. The price of diesel has gone up by ₹7.89 over the past 14 days. The fares that cab drivers are getting is the same. Many of them are unable to pay EMIs and have gone back to villages,” says Shaik Saluddin of Telangana State Taxi and Drivers’ Union.

As petrol and diesel prices get into the roaring 90s space, gig workers, including cab drivers, auto drivers and food delivery executives, are feeling the pinch. They have seen their take-home money dip by the day as fuel prices surge by the day.

“Delivery workers are being paid ₹6/km, while the cost including fuel and maintenance comes to around ₹2.5-3/km. So after travelling say about 100 km a day in more than 12 hours, they are earning about ₹600-700 from which they have to keep aside ₹200 for petrol. Earlier, they were compensated for long distance order by extra per/km charges, which now is uniform of ₹6 per km irrespective of distance,” informs Mohammad Sajjad Hussain, a PhD scholar at Delhi School of Economics who is doing his research on food delivery workers in Hyderabad.

The business of commission, wait time pay, batched orders, and incentives is a maze of words and digits for most gig workers. So, while a delivery worker might see ₹291 as an earning per order once the distance of 27.49 km and 57 minutes delivery time is factored in along with the fuel cost, the earnings don’t look so lucrative.

One of the food delivery apps sent out a message to its workers: ‘Fuel Price Hike? We’ve got a solution: Guaranteed minimum base pay is now ₹20 per order.” Prior to that it was ₹15. Waiting for orders near Mehfil Hotel in Narayanguda, Shabbir who works for a food delivery app scoffs at the hike. “When petrol price was ₹65-70, we were getting ₹15 per order. Now, when the price has increased by ₹20 per litre we are promised ₹5 more. This is cheating,” he says.

This small hike in fee was followed by the message from the food delivery company: “We continue to watch the increase in petrol costs closely and while they are not in our control, we remain committed to you in these difficult times.”

A message that doesn’t mean a thing to thousands of delivery workers trying to make a living from the only skill they have: Driving.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 3:48:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/gig-workers-hit-by-fuel-price-surge/article33943816.ece

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