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Telangana app-based workers’ unions plan to report issues to authorities; More on the issues to be put forward

Apart from deliberating on ways to address the plight of delivery workers, the meeting also touched on the effects of climate change and poor urban planning.  

In a meeting held a few days ago comprising groups representing app-based workers from Telangana, it was decided that their issues of underpayment and ‘exploitative’ nature of work would be reported to the state authorities as well as to the companies where these workers are employed.

The daylong meeting of app-based workers in the state brought over 50 activists and leaders together to discuss issues ranging from climate change, its impact on transport and delivery workers, the need to improve the material conditions of transport workers, the need to democratise public services, and urban planning through community participation in decision making, a release said. A larger Joint Action Committee meeting of 20 grassroots level organisations representing platform workers deliberated larger unity issues later in the day.

Why it matters? Gig workers such as app-based delivery executives have worked throughout the pandemic, both during the first and second wave, catering to a population who had the privilege to stay inside their homes. They have consistently accused their companies of not compensating them properly, not having proper safeguards in place, and not having their back in times of trouble.

What was discussed in the meeting?

According to the press release:

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  • Participants felt that while government and city administrations incorporate concepts like ‘sustainability’, ‘smart’, ‘green’ in their planning and decision making, these frameworks do not incorporate the views and needs of the transport workers in the city, who are often perceived as an afterthought.
  • App-based workers have been at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic and are often not integrated into the decision-making process at the city level.
  • The effect of climate change was discussed as gig workers are among the most affected by the climate crisis through air pollution and extreme weather conditions like floods and heat.
  • These delivery executives who work in precarious conditions do not have access to social security and health coverage.
  • In a second successive meeting, under the banner of Telangana State Taxi and Drivers Joint Action Committee (JAC), strategies to organise and represent the grievances of app-based workers were discussed
  • Members of Telangana Four Wheel Drivers Association and Telangana Gig & Platform Workers Union comprising drivers from Ola, Uber, and those working for IT companies as well as delivery riders working for Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, Dunzo, and Rapido participated in the programme.

MediaNama has reached out to Shaik Salauddin, the National General Secretary of Indian Federation of App-Based Transport, and this report will be updated if he responds.

Allegations against Swiggy for ‘exploiting’ workers

In the midst of these meetings, an anonymous Twitter account ‘Swiggy DE’ (@SwiggyDEHyd) accused the company of financially exploiting its delivery executives and not paying them enough despite working stressful conditions.

The controversy erupted on Tuesday when the account shared a screenshot that supposedly represents the amount paid to Swiggy delivery executives after each delivery. MediaNama was not able to independently verify the authenticity of the screenshot.

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Swiggy denied the allegations saying that the screenshot shared by the account did not reflect all the components of compensation that their delivery executives draw. According to Swiggy, delivery partners in Hyderabad make an average of Rs 65, with the highest of Rs 100 per order, and that the screenshots shared did not reflect the incentives given to the delivery executives.

Given the increased volatility in petrol prices over the last few months, Swiggy intervened in March to compensate for the price hike and has introduced a permanent petrol component (in July) for partners that changes with petrol prices (indexed monthly) moving in line with impact of expenses on partner — Sources

Help desk set up to record complaints of taxi drivers

The issues that are being highlighted are not limited to Swiggy or any other food delivery platform but also extend to app-based cab aggregators like Ola or Uber. Drivers working with these apps have often expressed their exasperation with the job and its demands. The pandemic spelled more trouble for these workers who, unlike food delivery executives, were not allowed to move around because of the lockdown.

As a result, their finances took a hit, and many taxi owners who had taken a loan for their vehicle found it hard to repay their loans. Recently in Hyderabad, a help desk was set up at the MSME-Development Institute to record the complaints of taxi owners who were allegedly being harassed by NBFCs. Salauddin claimed that these banks were ignoring the directives of RBI in regards to loan moratorium/rescheduling of payments.

“This help desk has been set up at the request of Telangana State Taxi and Drivers JAC to help the drivers and vehicle owners who are not educated enough to file their complaints with the RBI against the banks and NBFCs,” Salauddin said in a series of tweets.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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