'Food delivery workers denied minimum wages amid Covid'

Food delivery workers tire for 12 hours, but denied minimum wages amid Covid-19: Study

Companies label them as ‘partners’, thereby refusing to take any responsibilities obligated to employees

Representative Image. Credit: DH Photo

Companies have manipulated their algorithms to deny food delivery workers minimum wages during the pandemic though they spend nearly 12 hours on the road, a study has found.

Five researchers from the National Law School of India, University of Sussex and International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIITB) studied the earnings and work intensity of food delivery workers in the city belonging to various companies.

The study found that companies hired the workers promising more income than their previous jobs and kept their word for the first three years, until 2017.

Good remuneration was ensured as workers were given easily attainable targets and generous incentives, which helped them develop a network.

‘Partner’ just a label

Soon though, the algorithm became smarter and tightened the noose on the workers.

Despite the feeling that they had a control on their incomes, they had to work for about 12 hours to earn Rs 500 to Rs 600, with Rs 200 usually going towards filling their bike’s fuel tanks.

Companies label them as ‘partners’, thereby refusing to take any responsibilities obligated to employees. This denied the workers the usual social security net such as care and compensation during an accident, the study noted.

The opaque payment system that dangles large incentives, an illusion that only ends up tiring eager workers who keep chasing it, fails to offer the more basic support such as a grievance redressal system.

"When a worker gets closer to achieving the incentive, the app tends to slow down in routing the next delivery task to the worker close to fulfilling the target required to get the incentive,” the study said.

Long exposure to pollution and fatigue is a threat to the workers’ life and also a danger to fellow motorists on the road, the study noted.

Gig employees

It suggested regulating the wages on the online platforms by fixing a base wage on each trip and a ‘fallback wage’ equal to minimum wages in Karnataka.

"The situation of the gig workers during the pandemic (exposes) the myth perpetuated by the industry that these workers are independent contractors. India needs to follow other countries in recognising gig employees as workers and therefore, bring the sector within the ambit of labour regulation," it said.