Why does social security look like a dream for concert workers?
Why does social security look like a dream for concert workers?

Why does social security look like a dream for concert workers?

Lakhs of concert workers in India continue to work in the midst of little or no access to social security. We find out more about their situation, and also whether the new labor laws will solve their void in social security


social Security | gig economy | Indian labor law

We now have food and groceries delivered within 15 minutes of ordering on mobile applications. But have you ever wondered what it takes to achieve such a feat? What does the delivery manager go through between picking the order from the restaurant or warehouse and handing it over to you? One of them, Salil Tripathi, lost his life eight days ago on a cold winter night while his wife and a minor son were waiting for him at home. Salil was the sole breadwinner of his family. And the same is true of thousands of others who continue to walk on tight leash without any insurance and anything else benefits that workers in organized sectors enjoy. When Salil’s accidental death attracted media glare, Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal took to Twitter and secured help to process an insurance payment of Rs 10 lakh. Zomato’s employees contributed Rs 12 lakh to the family, and a fundraising site started by his wife raised around Rs 9 lakh. While Zomato’s move came as a welcome step, this case has underscored the need to provide benefits for concert and platform workers. Gig workers are currently dependent on corporate generosity. In the absence of legislation providing protection to concert workers, the companies that employ them do not have a uniform policy on what kind of insurance coverage they should provide to their drivers or delivery partners in the event of accidents or medical emergencies. Zomato covers its delivery partners with accident and life insurance along with an OPD allowance, whereas Swiggy offers medical and accident insurance worth Rs 6 lakh. However, Shaik Salauddin, the national secretary general of the Indian Federation of App-Based Transport Workers (IFAT), told Business Standard that there have been several instances where Zomato and Swiggy have not done enough to compensate their delivery partners for loss of pay after they encountered an accident while at work. IFAT represents concert workers employed by food delivery and taxi apps. The recent Fairwork India Report 2021 ranked Indian startups based on how they treat their concert staff. It said that most Indian startups do not score well when judged on the principle of ‘Fair Conditions’. To solve this problem and many more, the central government has come up with the code which recognizes concert and platform workers.

But according to reports, the center is unlikely to implement it before state elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab this year, as it is concerned about the possibility of trade union protests, after having had a similar experience with the three controversial agricultural laws that had to be withdrawn back.

The Supreme Court has also recognized a petition from the Indian Federation of App-Based Transport Workers (IFAT) seeking the classification of concert and platform workers as ‘disorganized workers’ under the Unorganized Workers Act, 2008. This would entitle them to benefits such as f .ex. sickness fund, sickness and maternity benefits and old-age insurance. “This is clearly an attempt to distance oneself from any language that would hold the aggregator responsible for providing drivers with social security or any form of protection or recognizing any kind of ’employer-employee’ relationship,” the IFAT application reads. . IFAT’s petition points out that two major cab aggregators recently “updated” the service agreements for their riders and drivers in order to “substantially relieve the ride-sharing / transport company (aggregator) of all obligations and / or responsibilities to the drivers or riders”. For example, one of the aggregators has stopped using the word ‘partner’ in the agreement and now defines individuals who use its app service for commercial gain as ‘customers’. Gayatri Singh, co-founder of the Human Rights Law Network and the lawyer who filed the PIL on behalf of IFAT, explained why the current working arrangements between concert workers and platforms are unsustainable. The new social security code introduced by the government also provides for a social security fund for concert workers, which will collect contributions from aggregators. The introduction of the code will address many troublesome issues in India now. It requires mandatory registration of both concert and platform employees on an online portal to take advantage of these benefits. Due to a continuous fall in wages and an increase in own expenses, these delivery concerts, which were originally supposed to be part-time work for pocket money, have now become the cornerstone for many. According to several testimonies in the Fairwork report, most delivery partners spend 12-16 hours a day making ends meet. And is here to stay. A report by Boston Consulting Group says that India has the potential to earn up to 90 million jobs in the next eight to 10 years from around 24 million today. Labor law is really a big step in the right direction. But it is clear that the road to social security for concert and platform workers is long and uneven.

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First Released: Mon, 17 Jan 2022. 08:15 IST

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