Gas cylinder delivery men weighed down by low wages

 A delivery man carries LPG gas cylinders at Tiruchi city on Saturday.

A delivery man carries LPG gas cylinders at Tiruchi city on Saturday. | Photo Credit: M. Moorthy

While the fluctuating price of LPG cylinders has made waves in recent weeks, little has been said about delivery agents (also called gas delivery boys) that this sector employs, for a pittance.

“I start work by 9 a.m. and deliver around 20 cylinders per day by 5 p.m. A full cylinder weighs about 30 kilograms, while an empty one is around 15; after carrying nearly 900 kilograms a day, I am glad when work gets over,” Arumugham, a gas delivery agent in Puthur, told The Hindu.

For his effort, Mr. Arumugham earns around ₹200 per day from the distribution agency that employs him. “Since I am my family’s only breadwinner, I have many responsibilities and rely on tips from customers to earn a little extra. But I have to pay for my delivery vehicle’s maintenance and fuel costs, so money is always tight,” he said.

Having been a delivery agent since the age of 29, Mr. Arumugham, who is 57 now, knows he has only two more years of active service left. “Gas agencies tend to relieve workers by the time they are 59,” he said. “We do not get health insurance, provident fund or pension — oil companies and distributors keep passing the buck when we petition them for these benefits. Some people have lost their jobs when they complained,” he said.

The lack of formal representation has led to exploitation, say labour relations experts. “It is sad to see the last mile workers struggling with very low wages. There are close to 3,000 delivery agents in Tiruchi, and despite having worked through the pandemic, they were not considered eligible for any kind of financial aid by the government,” said R. Raja, district secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

The physical exertion of the job can also lead to health complications. “Constant lifting of heavy objects can injure the lower back, so it is always advisable for professionals to exercise and strengthen their core muscles before they start work daily. Perhaps gas agencies should create awareness about this for their employees,” said G. Mukesh Mohan, orthopaedic surgeon.

Even though metered gas pipelines have become common in the metro cities, delivery agents are still forced to carry the cylinders in most places. “Giving them trolleys may help, but even then, the delivery agents must have the strength to transfer the cylinders from the vehicles,” said Dr. Mohan.

For workers like Mr. Arumugham, the struggle is constant. “I cannot afford to fall sick,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2022 1:29:51 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/gas-cylinder-delivery-men-weighed-down-by-low-wages/article65470235.ece