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Ola, Uber rank lowest in fair labour practices for gig workers

Ola, Uber and Porter scored zero in Fairwork India Ratings 2021, while Flipkart provides the best work conditions for gig workers

Food delivery app Swiggy provides decent work conditions for gig workers, according to the Fairwork India Ratings 2021. Earnings of gig workers have been on the decline during the pandemic.  (iStock)

Ecommerce marketplace Flipkart provides the best work conditions for gig workers across 11 service delivery platforms, according to the  new Fairwork India Ratings 2021: Labour Standards in the Platform Economy report. Mobility apps Ola and Uber and logistics solutions provider Porter scored zero for fair working conditions, putting them at the bottom of the list.

Walmart-owned Flipkart maintained its score of 7 out of 10, the same as last year. Urban Company, which topped the rankings last year a score of eight, slid to second place with five points this year. 

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In its third edition, the report ranked 11 service platforms, ranging from domestic and personal care services to logistics, food delivery, e-pharmacy and transportation. The companies were ranked on five parameters—pay, working conditions, contracts, management and representation—to ascertain fair labour practices.

The other platforms on the list are Swiggy, BigBasket (each got four points), Zomato (three points), Amazon, Dunzo, Pharmeasy (one point each), and Ola, Porter and Uber (zero). The study is conducted by Centre for IT and Public Policy (CITAPP) at the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIIT-B) in partnership with Oxford University.

The take-home earnings of gig workers on these platforms continues decline due to an increase in fuel costs and platform commissions, the report notes. Last year, the report suggested introducing minimum wages for gig workers after factoring in costs. This has been done by tree companies, Big Basket, Flipkart and Urban Company. “This is indeed a pleasant surprise. Another positive change we noticed this year was that companies are putting down contracts in regional languages for these gig workers to understand. Until last year, the contracts were only in English,” said Balaji Parthasarathy, who led the Fairworks India team. 

There has been no improvement, however, in the platforms engaging with worker collectives to resolve grievances, the report points out. “Until now, voices of workers have been rather muted. But over the past one-and-a-half years, we have been seeing many instances of workers coming together and speaking up. It’s happening in variety of ways," said Parthasarathy. He gave the example of localized strikes in particular cities, greater activity on social media, and some instances of national organisations of workers making demands. "However, there is continued reluctance from platforms to engage with collective bodies of workers and discuss and negotiate these issues with them,” he said. 

Due to the focus on workers’ health, three platforms provided accident insurance policies, raised awareness about such policies and improved claims processes. Emergency helplines to deal with such issues were also set up, the report states. Other platforms were also in the process of updating their policies to deal with occupational hazards that gig workers could face. 

In terms of fair management practices, seven platforms had set up an appeals process, where workers could challenge disciplinary action against them. Four had taken active interest in ensure there was no workplace discrimination by consumers.   

While no platform did well on all parameters, each company was trying to improve the workplace. “There is plenty of room for change. We want platforms to thrive but we want the workers to thrive as well, which is not the case right now. We hope the report will act as a mirror to the platforms,” Parthasarathy said. 

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