Urban Company most ‘fair’ in working conditions for gig workers; Zomato, Swiggy & Uber the worst

According to a recent report by FairWork Foundation – Urban Company had the best working conditions for ‘platform workers’ this year while food delivery apps such as Zomato and Swiggy had the worst conditions.

Few things have changed urban India’s habits. Over the years, an array of online services like food delivery apps, online grocery stores, and other online services have mushroomed across India. For urban middle-class Indians using these online services through various apps has become the new fad, and I guess, that’s pretty normal.  But, have you ever thought about the working conditions of the gig or app-based workers, who bring you the services you love and enjoy?

According to a recent report published by a UK-based FairWork Foundation on the labour standards in India:  Urban Company, the home services start-up, had the best working conditions for ‘platform workers’ this year while food delivery apps such as Zomato and Swiggy had the worst conditions.

Urban Company (earlier called Urban Clap) emerged out as the best gig economy app-based platform to work for in India, according to ratings by FairWork. At the bottom of the table are Swiggy, Uber, and Zomato. Yes! that’s right. These popular food delivery apps in India were ranked near the bottom when it comes to working conditions for their gig workers.  

Who are these platform workers?

Platform workers are variously referred to as ‘independent contractors’ and delivery/driver partners in these companies. Currently, the legal status of gig/platform workers in India is that of independent contractors.

The FairWork India Ratings 2020 has evaluated Indian start-ups and platforms on how they treat their contract employees. Most surveys around the best places to work for focus on white-collar employees taking into account the perks, swanky offices, and issues like work-life balance and professional fulfilment. But this new survey has provided some insights into how Indian companies are treating their temporary gig workers, who now form the backbone of many popular start-ups.

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The survey included workers who drive for Uber and Ola, delivery personnel for Swiggy, Zomato and Dunzo, and professionals employed with Urban Company and Housejoy. The UK-based FairWork Foundation evaluated working conditions on these digital platforms and scored them based on five principles of ‘fair work’.

Five principles of evaluation: 

The FairWork India Rating 2020: Labour Standards in the Platform Economy report looked at 11 app-based platforms and ranked these prominent Indian companies based on the working conditions prevalent there for temporary workers. The companies were evaluated on the basis of five principles.

The five principles are: Fair pay (minimum wages), fair conditions (health and safety), fair contract (simple terms and conditions), fair management (clear communication between leaders and workers) and fair representation (right to organise, worker unions).

The survey found that Urban Company’s workers had the best working conditions, with a score of 8 out of 10. Urban Company was followed by Flipkart’s logistics arm Ekart, which was standing at a score of 7. Among grocery delivery companies, such as Dunzo and Grofers scored a 4, while Big Basket just scored 2. Cab aggregators were some of the worst in terms of ensuring fair working conditions for their workforce, with Ola scoring 2 and Uber scoring 1 on 10. The worst conditions for workers seemed to be in the food delivery space, with both Zomato and Swiggy scoring the lowest possible score of 1.

Other focus areas of the report:

The report apart from other details also clearly mentioned the fact that with the exception of Urban Company and Dunzo, there was insufficient evidence from other apps to show that “accessible, readable and comprehensible terms and conditions were available to the workers.” 

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 The report also found that Ola, Uber, Swiggy, and Zomato workers were “increasingly dissatisfied” with the communication channels of the platforms. It was also claimed that the helpline numbers that were provided to the workers were unresponsive most of the time or had premeditated responses. Workers on these platforms added that ID blocks without warning were also frequent.

Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal took full responsibility after this survey showed that his company had the worst working conditions among platforms offering “digitally-mediated work”. “Zomato ranked at the bottom of 2020 FairWork India scores. We knew we had things to work on, but we didn’t know that there is so much room for improvement,” Goyal said in a tweet.

The report suggests:

The report mentioned that with the rise of app-based companies, which works with hundreds of contractual or gig staff, a key challenge has been that such staff doesn’t profit from labour rules with respect to wages, hours, working conditions, and the proper to collective bargaining. The report also said that while such apps offer employment opportunities, it is far from clear whether the work offered by these platforms qualifies as what the International Labour Organisation calls decent work.

It is believed that a serious problem with work on such apps is employment standing as these gig or app-based workers most of the time are not categorised as workers by these apps. Instead, they’re often categorized as impartial contractors.

As India’s gig economy grows and develops, companies present in the internet space of the country will realise that it’s not only the white-collar employees that they need to focus on, but the well-being of their blue-collar rank employees and workforces present in all areas is just as important as other employees.

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