Every single day during the COVID-19 induced lockdown, Reji, a delivery agent with the online food delivery aggregator Swiggy, used to leave his home at 8 a.m, riding through the day and delivering food in different parts of the city, be it rain or shine.
On Thursday noon, he along with hundreds of other delivery agents logged off from from the Swiggy mobile app, in protest against the drastic cut in incentives, which makes it impossible for them to make any reasonable savings.
According to delivery agents, all of them had received a message from Swiggy on Tuesday indicating that their weekly incentive has been reduced from ₹1,500 to ₹1,000.
The incentive per delivery, which was around ₹50 earlier for deliveries to places located more than 5 kms away, was cut down to ₹25. They used to get a commission of ₹200 for achieving total incentives of ₹600. This has now been changed to commission of ₹150 for total incentives of ₹750. They would also not get the weekly incentives, if they take more than two days break per week.
“Petrol prices have been increasing daily for the past 6 days. Now, suddenly Swiggy has decided to cut our meagre incentives, which makes it hard for us to survive. I took up this delivery job after losing my job as a manager at a marketing survey agency, at a salary of ₹35,000 per month. In the early days of food delivery, I used to make around ₹30,000 per month. Now, we are making only around half of that. With the incentive cut, there would be further reduction. How will we make profit, after spending on fuel and bike maintenance,” says Reji.
Restaurants across the city have been flashing an ‘unable to deliver’ message since Thursday on Swiggy. Yet, no one from the company had reached out to the protesting delivery agents till even late on Friday night.
They are mostly dealing with a faceless system, where complaint resolution has to be done through the mobile application. The few fleet managers for each city are not often powerless to address their queries.
“We are not demanding even a raise. All we are asking for is the existing incentives, which would allow us to just stay afloat. We have all taken so much risk to deliver during the pandemic, yet this is how the company treats us,” says Mahir, a delivery agent.
Zomato delivery agents had also gone on flash strike last week after a similar cut in incentives. However, the company reinstated the previous incentives soon, claiming it to be a ‘technical error’. Delivery agents say that the companies like Zomato have in the past tried to prevent unionisation of the agents, by dividing them on different incentive slabs.