WHY IN NEWS?
In protest of a revised pricing structure that they claim will lower their income and cause service disruptions at some areas, hundreds of delivery partners operating with Zomato-owned rapid commerce platform Blinkit in Delhi-NCR went on strike.
The minimal compensation provided, according to the strike-instigating delivery partners, has been reduced from ₹ 25 per order to ₹ 15, they claim. This comes after a prior reduction from ₹ 50 in 2021. Additionally, they no longer receive the ₹ 4 per order incentive during peak hours, which had been reduced from ₹ 7 in 2021.
The rise of the gig economy has revolutionized the way people work and earn a living. However, along with its promises of flexibility and independence, the gig economy has exposed gig workers to the pervasive problem of low wages. This essay explores the Blinkit low wage issue within the gig economy and highlights the pressing need for robust protections of gig workers’ rights.
ISSUES FACED BY GIG WORKERS ARE:
- Fluctuating Work Demand: Gig workers often experience erratic work demand, leading to irregular income streams and financial instability.
- Lack of Bargaining Power: Due to their fragmented and decentralized work arrangements, gig workers typically lack collective bargaining power, making it challenging to negotiate fair wages.
- Many gig economy platforms employ complex payment algorithms, making it difficult for workers to understand how their earnings are calculated, thereby leaving room for potential exploitation and underpayment.
- Financial Insecurity: Insufficient wages restrict gig workers’ ability to meet basic needs, pushing them into a cycle of financial insecurity and perpetuating economic inequality.
- Lack of Social Protection: Low wages deny gig workers access to essential employment benefits, such as health insurance, paid leave, retirement plans, and unemployment benefits, leaving them vulnerable during times of crisis.
- Diminished Well-being: Chronic low wages can lead to stress, burnout, and a reduced quality of life for gig workers, ultimately affecting their mental and physical health.
HOW CAN GIG WORKERS’ RIGHTS BE PROTECTED?
- Fair Compensation: Comprehensive measures, including setting minimum wage standards specifically tailored to the gig economy, ensure that gig workers receive compensation that is commensurate with their work, preventing exploitative practices.
- Wage Transparency: Platforms should provide clear and detailed breakdowns of earnings, empowering gig workers to understand their payment structures and identify underpayment or wage theft.
- Strengthening Labor Laws: Updating existing labour laws and including gig workers can help protect gig workers’ rights, guarantee fair wages, and establish mechanisms for dispute resolution.
- Bargaining Power: Granting gig workers the freedom to engage in collective bargaining enables them to negotiate for fair wages and improved working conditions collectively, balancing the power dynamics between workers and platforms.
Gig workers should be given a Just future of work.
Policymakers must proactively intervene by enacting legislation and regulations that protect gig workers’ rights, ensuring fair wages and access to essential benefits.Gig economy platforms should be held accountable for their treatment of workers, fostering transparency, and discouraging exploitative practices through monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. Empowering gig workers through education, advocacy, and the formation of worker associations or unions can amplify their voices and facilitate collective action towards fair compensation and improved working conditions.
Legal protections must be provided to the gig workers. Clarifying the legal status of gig workers and providing them with specific legal protections can help address issues like misclassification and unfair treatment. This can include defining their employment status more clearly, establishing avenues for legal recourse, and These are just a few examples of why protecting gig workers’ rights is important. By addressing these concerns, societies can strive for a fairer and more equitable work environment for all, regardless of employment arrangement.
Gig Workers’ Access to Social Security
A PIL was filed for the welfare of the gig workers.
The Indian Federation Of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT) v Union of India (WP (C) 1068/2021)
QUESTION OF LAW
- Whether gig workers fall under the scope of ‘unorganized workers‘ and are eligible for social security benefits under the ‘unorganized Workers’ in Social Security Act, 2008?
- Whether the denial of social security to gig workers violate the right to life under Article 21, and exploitation through forced labour under Article 23?
Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) is a trade union for app-based transport and delivery workers. It includes aggregator companies like Swiggy, Zomato, Ola, Blinkit (now under Zomato) and Uber.
The current agreements between the businesses and the employees, according to IFAT’s petition to the Supreme Court, are in violation of Articles 14, 21, and 23 of the Constitution of India, 1950.
Social Security Code, 2020
The Code on Social Security in India aims to streamline and simplify the social security system in India. It was passed by the Indian Parliament in September 2020 along with three other labour codes:
- Code on Wages, 2019
- Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020
- Industrial Relations Code, 2020
Social security refers to the protections provided to workers, including unorganized workers, gig workers, and platform workers, to ensure access to health care and to provide income security, particularly in cases of old age, unemployment, sickness, invalidity, work injury, maternity, or loss of a breadwinner. The Code on Social Security, 2020, recognises gig workers as a new occupational category. The above-mentioned limitations in the working background of gig workers makes the Code a need for their welfare. According to the Code on Social Security, 2020, a gig worker is a person who performs work or participates in work arrangements and earns from such activities, outside of the traditional employer-employee relationship. These protections are provided through rights granted to them and plans outlined in the Code on Social Security, 2020.
The Code on Social Security ,2020 contains nine central labour legislations.ie., The Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923, The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, The Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, The Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act, 1959, The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, The Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981, The Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996 and the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008.
The Code on Social Security, 2020 brings, within itself the self-employed workers, home workers, wage workers, migrant workers, the workers in the unorganised sector, gig workers and platform workers for the purpose of social security schemes, including life insurance and disability insurance, health and maternity benefits, provident fund. For the first time, the definition of ‘gig worker’ and ‘platform worker’ has been provided in the Code on Social Security, 2020
To Conclude, The Blinkit low wage issue is a critical concern within the gig economy, threatening the livelihoods and well-being of millions of gig workers worldwide. To address this issue, it is imperative to protect gig workers’ rights through fair compensation, wage transparency, strengthened labor laws, and the empowerment of gig workers. By championing these protections, we can strive towards a just and equitable future of work, where gig workers are afforded dignity, economic security, and the opportunity to thrive in the ever-evolving world of gig work.