Swiggy, Uber, Zomato least while Urban Company most ‘fair’ in working conditions for gig workers: Study

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Updated: December 15, 2020 11:14 PM

Amazon’s logistics service Amazon Transportation Services, Ola, BigBasket, Housejoy were ranked towards the bottom while Swiggy, Uber, and Zomato were found to have the worst working conditions for their ‘partners’,

Major e-commerce players, as well as small businesses, are today looking to improve delivery time and experience as a critical tool to gain new customers. (Representative image)

The working conditions for the gig or app-based workers, typically classified as independent contractors or driver and delivery partners or ‘professionals’, were found to be better at home services startup Urban Company than other leading unicorn and large internet companies in India. According to UK-based FairWork Foundation, supported by The Oxford Internet Institute, which published its second India report on Tuesday, on the labour standards in India’s ‘platform’ economy has put Flipkart (riding on its logistics arm eKart) on the second spot, down from the first spot last year. Importantly, Amazon’s logistics service Amazon Transportation Services (ATS), Ola, BigBasket, Housejoy were ranked towards the bottom while Swiggy, Uber, and Zomato were found to have the worst working conditions for their ‘partners’, according to the report.

“Apart from healthy earnings, Urban Company partners enjoy a host of benefits such as free training, access to standardized tools and products, free PPE and safety gear, access to loans, life, accident and health insurance, etc. Glad to see that our efforts have been recognized by the Fairwork Foundation,” Abhiraj Bhal, Co-founder, Urban Company told Financial Express Online.

Comments from other companies scored in the report will be updated here as and when shared by them.

“Our standout programs and policies like eKartians with Different Abilities (eDAB), FlipCare (includes full medical care for the person insured and his family members), Flip Ahead — a programme focused on equipping supply chain employees with the right training to enhance their growth opportunities, environment-friendly innovations like eBikes for last-mile delivery prompted the FairWork Foundation to rank Flipkart as the leading e-commerce ‘Fair Work’ employer in India,” Krishna Raghavan, Chief People Officer, Flipkart told Financial Express Online.

Eleven such platforms were assessed this year from sectors including domestic and personal care services, logistics, food delivery, and transportation. The report, titled Fairwork India Ratings 2020: Labour Standards in the Platform Economy, focused on five areas of fair platform work such as Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation and scored them out of ten based on the five principles. “A number of platforms struggled to evidence that all their workers earned above local minimum wages after accounting for costs incurred by workers,” the Fairwork said. The report was published in collaboration with the International Institute of Information Technology — Bangalore (IIIT-B).

At Urban Company, according to the report, most workers earned above the local minimum wage after factoring in costs. Amongst the eleven apps scored, Urban Company was the only platform to provide evidence that its workers earn above minimum wage while working (on average) a 48-hour working week for most categories of services. While some categories of Urban Company workers, particularly beauty workers, were mandated to buy their equipment and products from the platform that increased the costs for workers. However, it is justified by the platform as a means of ensuring standardised service provision.

Also point: Breaking down Reliance vs Amazon: The epic battle for Indian e-commerce bragging rights

The report also pointed towards the lack of clarity in the employment status of workers among other scored apps. “Workers were often unaware of signing (or digitally accepting) the terms of service laid out by platforms, nor were they explained these during onboarding.” The scores ascribed were 8 to the Urban Company, 7 to Flipkart, Dunzo and Grofers scored 4 while ATS, BigBasket, Housejoy, Ola could score only 2. At the bottom with just 1 score were Swiggy, Uber, and Zomato.

With the rise of app-based businesses, which works with thousands of contractual or gig workers, a key issue has been that such workers don’t benefit from labour regulations with respect to wages, hours, working conditions, and the right to collective bargaining. The report said that while such apps offer employment opportunities, it is far from clear whether the work offered qualifies as what the International Labour Organisation calls decent work, or “work that is productive; ensures equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men; delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families; provides prospects for personal development; and gives workers the freedom to express their concerns, organise and participate in decisions that affect their working lives.”

A major challenge with work on such apps is employment status, the report added, as most workers are not classified as employees with income security and social protection. Instead, they are usually classified as independent contractors. Consequently, workers find themselves in increasingly flexible labour markets where their survival has become precarious and vulnerable. Many lack labour and income security, and work-based identity, with little sense of a future in what they are doing, the report stated.

“Urban Company scored the basic point on all five principles and Flipkart scored the basic point on four of them based on the evidence gathered. For Zomato and Uber, only the basic point of Fair Pay was awarded, which means evidence was found that workers on these platforms earn a wage that meets or exceeds the minimum wage rate in Bangalore before considering costs. Similarly, Swiggy was awarded only the basic point for Fair Conditions since evidence that basic measures were in place to mitigate task-specific risks was found,” Professor Balaji Parthasarathy, IIIT-B told Financial Express Online.

This story was updated with comments from Flipkart and Urban Company and later from IIIT-B.

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