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Compensate kin of delivery workers who died on duty: IFAT tells Zomato and Swiggy

Delivery workers union wrote letters to Zomato and Swiggy demanding compensation for the kin of delivery workers who died while at work

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What’s the news: Compensate kin of delivery workers who died on duty, demanded gig workers unions in a letter to food delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy on August 1. The Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) and the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWU) reached out to the companies following the death of two delivery executives in Indore, Madhya Pradesh and Gachibowli in Hyderabad, Telangana respectively.

Why it matters: Gig workers’ safety and security is an issue recognised at the Parliamentary-level. In July, Swiggy workers launched an indefinite strike to protest low wages, reduced incentives and safety concerns. The strike was later temporarily halted. The news of these deaths highlights the dangers faced by these workers who are not defined under any existing central labour laws. Difficulty in availing compensation is one such issue cited by an IFAT official.

IFAT demands justice for workers: As per the letter, the IFAT demanded that the companies compensate 22-year-old Zomato worker Sunil Kumar’s family with ₹50 lakhs (approximately $63000 based on the current exchange rate) aside from the compensation due to the delivery person under the Workmen Compensation Act.

Further, the IFAT also demanded that Zomato officials in Indore pursue the matter with local police and other authorities “to bring the culprits to book.” Kumar was brutally assaulted and murdered on July 28 while delivering an order at around 10:30 pm in Karol Bagh, under Banganga police station. According to union members who brought the incident to light, Kumar was allegedly waylaid, robbed of money and stabbed by three men. Surviving the ordeal, Kumar rode his motorcycle to the Maharaj Yashwantrao hospital but later succumbed to his injuries. He is survived by his parents and wife.

On top of failing to meet the deceased’s family, IFAT said Zomato failed to coordinate with the police for addressing the issue.

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“We demand that Zomato takes urgent remedial steps to ensure the safety of its delivery personnel and covers them with insurance and social security benefits so that these lowly paid personnel are ensured of decent work conditions,” said Shaik Salauddin, IFAT General Secretary in the letter. IFAT said that it will pursue the matter until Zomato takes the required corrective measures to ensure that incidents of assault and death of delivery personnel do not happen anymore, adding that it is willing to collaborate with Zomato to discuss and ensure implementation of safe and decent work conditions for delivery riders.

Zomato’s response: However, a Zomato spokesperson in conversation with MediaNama dismissed these allegations stating that local officials have been in constant touch with the family since the day of the murder. When asked whether the company is in touch with the police, the spokesperson said, “In these situations it is important to cooperate with the police since it is difficult for the family to cater to police requirements.” Stating that Zomato helped the police and the family with the investigation and Kumar’s funeral respectively, she said the insurance due to the family is “already in process.”

Zomato did not comment about the demand for additional compensation of ₹ 50 lakh.

Swiggy worker’s kin pending compensation? A day after Kumar’s death, another Swiggy delivery person died in a road accident while on-duty in Gachibowli, Hyderabad. Ahmed is survived by his wife and his two-month-old child.

According to Salauddin, who is also the Founder and State President of the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union, 24-year-old Swiggy worker Adil Ahmed was delivering an order when a tractor hit him from the back. Following the incident, TGPWU tweeted about the death.

At the time, Swiggy had responded to the tweet on the social media platform via a link stating “We [Swiggy officials] are processing an insurance grant of 10 lakhs and have covered the medical expenses.”

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Despite the virtual response, the family is yet to hear from the company, said the union. MediaNama reached out to the delivery company, which said it has been in touch with the family since the day of the incident and processed his hospital charges. With regards to compensation, Swiggy said provides all delivery partners with accident insurance “with no opt-in required.”

Longstanding demand for security: As per union leaders, demand for social security has been a longstanding demand of workers. Even in the case of assaults, delivery persons in other cities have also suffered such attacks by customers. Metropolitan cities like Hyderabad, Delhi, Bengaluru have reported multiple incidents of attack on gig workers, said Salauddin.

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In May, an Ola-cab driver Muhammad Ali was murdered in Thane, Maharashtra, reported Sabrang India. Diva police arrested four adults and a minor boy for robbing the driver of his mobile phone and money and leaving his partly-naked body near a gutter bridge on May 29. At the time, IFAT’s Maharashtra unit had urged the government to consider the need for a social security code for gig workers.

As such, the IFAT decried the Zomato company for failing to acknowledge the issue and take corrective measures to ensure the safety of its personnel or ensure provisions of insurance and other social security benefits.

Workers organise to assert demands: Earlier in July, Swiggy delivery workers had launched a protest to demanded better wages and safety and security provisions. They paused their strike in Bengaluru when the company agreed to consider workers’ grievances. The company asked for a week’s time that concluded on July 30. At the time, about 3,000 workers protested in Bengaluru out of ITAF’s national strength of nearly 50,000 app-based drivers and food delivery riders in India. Sources said that workers are planning the next plan of action as the deadline asked by the company comes to an end.

The union had approached the Supreme Court in last year asking that workers be reclassified to ‘wage workers’ for better social security and employment. Yet the Ministry of Labour and Employment on August 1 said that gig workers are not defined under any existing central labour laws. Although the Ministry said that social security benefits for gig workers are envisaged via the Code on Social Security, 2020.

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