Government to ensure labour benefits for gig economy workers

A protest was held on Monday outside the office of Dunzo at Indiranagar for not giving compensation to a delivery boy who died in an accident while on duty.   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy

The State government will work towards framing guidelines for the emerging ‘gig economy’ comprising cab aggregators, food delivery platforms and e-commerce firms to ensure all relevant labour benefits for those working in the sector, Labour Minister S. Suresh Kumar announced on Monday.

The decision came after his meeting with representatives and workers of companies in the sector.

“The firms claim the workers are freelancers, but for all practical purposes, they are employees who are working in appalling conditions without any security. The government feels it is duty-bound to provide these boys with social security and stability,” said the minister.

He told Deputy Labour Commissioner Dr. Balakrishna to meet all stakeholders and recommend guidelines within a month.

Unions of cab drivers and food delivery personnel in the city pointed out that they were termed ‘partners’. They are not given appointment letters and are not considered ‘employees’ denying them all relevant benefits.

“The delivery boys are enrolled on an SMS. Though most of the youths work for insane hours, sometimes beyond 12 hours, there are no benefits like PF, ESI or medical insurance. The firms change the incentives at will. The incentives are not uniform for all delivery personnel and cab drivers, which is unfair,” said Vinay Sarathy, president, Food Delivery Partners Struggle Committee, Bengaluru. They, along with cab driver's unions, demanded that all cab drivers and delivery personnel be considered employees of these firms.

This was opposed by representatives of the firms.

Panduranga Acharya, a representative of Swiggy, argued that food delivery companies are only a technology platform to link customers with restaurants and delivery partners, who he termed ‘freelancers’. “Any person can log out of the app or refuse to take a delivery assignment. These partners can take up other full-time jobs, and many do so. Several students work in the evenings for the extra money,” he said, arguing that a ‘delivery partner’ cannot be considered an employee. The company offered medical insurance for accident while on assignment, he added.

A representative of another company admitted that the average login on these apps is between eight and nine hours, indicating that most were working for their livelihood, bolstering the argument of the workers.

Basavaraj, vice-president of the committee and a delivery personnel with Zomato, said firms often hold back incentives unless they work during peak hours and complete a certain number of deliveries, which essentially forces them to work more and not entirely voluntarily.

“Most of these firms sell a dream of earning over ₹40,000 a month, which is definitely not possible working part-time. A majority work for their livelihood. Many have developed health problems, like piles and respiratory issues after riding their bikes for over 200 km every day,” said Dr. G.S. Kumar, advisor, Food Delivery Partners Struggle Committee, Bengaluru.

Mr. Suresh Kumar said the ‘gig economy’ is a new phenomenon that cannot be wished away. The government has the responsibility of ensuring social stability for youths working in the sector while not creating hurdles for the businesses, he said.

Protest against Dunzo

Around 50 activists of the Dalita Sangharsha Sene (DSS) held a protest in Indiranagar alleging that Dunzo, which delivers parcels, had not given compensation to Chinta Ravindra, 24, a delivery personnel who died in an accident in Peenya on August 20. “He died while he was on duty, but the firm has refused to compensate the family,” said A. Gopal, a DSS leader.

Police have organised a tripatriate meeting between the family, activists and the firm on October 25, sources said.

‘Will re-introduce tripatriate labour mechanism’

Labour Minister S. Suresh Kumar said the department will re-introduce tripatriate system with labour unions, managements and the government to resolve disputes. The government will review the The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Karnataka Rules.

He also announced that a State-level labour meet will be held in December to discuss all issues threadbare.

Following meetings with a host of labour unions and industrialists on Monday, he said the ministry will hold industry specific roundtables with all stakeholders in garments sector, construction labour and the Information Technology (IT) sector in the coming months.

“Leaders of the IT industry have argued that they are not labourers in response to accusation by unions of blocking their entry. We will resolve this soon,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 9:11:33 PM |

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