Congress MP urges government to ensure social security for gig workers, hits out at companies

Karti P Chidambaram accused app-based companies of using a “ridiculous thesaurus of words to abdicate responsibilities”
Last Updated 21 March 2022, 16:50 IST

Accusing app-based companies of using a “ridiculous thesaurus of words to abdicate responsibilities,” Congress MP Karti P Chidambaram on Monday urged the government to categorise gig workers as "workmen" on the lines countries like the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands do to ensure delivery of social security as well as uphold the dignity of their labour.

Days after raising concerns over the situation of gig workers in Lok Sabha, Karti wrote to Labour Minister Bhupender Yadav and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari as well as app-based companies. He raised the possibility of gig workers being deprived of insurance coverage as they use personal vehicles for commercial purposes.

In his letter to Yadav, the Sivaganga MP said it was a matter of concern that many companies that employ gig workers refuse to accord them the status of ‘employee’ and “instead utilise a ridiculous thesaurus of words to abdicate responsibilities towards these gig workers.”

Citing a study conducted by the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, two major transport apps that employ gig workers, a “glaring” 93.5 per cent of them claimed to have no form of insurance. “This lack of social security had a particularly devastating impact on gig workers and their families during the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic,” Karti said.

He said that the two companies scored an “appalling zero” in working conditions as per the Fair Works India Rating 2021. He also said that the pressure on gig workers to have a quicker Turnaround Time (TAT) to boost the valuation of companies that technically do not employ them has resulted in tragedies time and again.

Referring to Code on Social Security, 2020 mandating that companies employing gig workers should allocate 1-2 per cent of their annual turnover or 5 per cent of the wages disbursed to platform workers to a social security fund, Karti asked Yadav to evaluate the actual status of implementation of these measures and compliance by the companies.

In his letter to Gadkari, he said that many gig workers are using their personal vehicles for commercial purposes.

He asked what is the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways’ official stand on such practices and whether the use of personal vehicles for commercial purposes constitutes valid grounds for insurance companies to reject claims in cases of accidents.

He also wrote to Swiggy, Zomato, Dunzo, Zepto, Ola, Uber and Blinkit asking them to provide data on the number of workers employed as gig workers, the number of accidents and fatalities among such workers and the average earnings of a gig worker among other things.

As a public representative, he said, these questions trouble him deeply and these data points are path makers that illuminate the way forward for governance regarding India’s gig workers, who despite their constant hard work and often fatal work ethic, are being disregarded as an integral aspect of the country’s workforce.

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(Published 21 March 2022, 16:50 IST)

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