India gig workers demand the right to social security
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India gig workers demand the right to social security

The Indian Federation Of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT), a federation of the registered trade unions, on Tuesday filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Indian Supreme Court on behalf of gig workers demanding social security benefits from food delivery apps such as Zomato and Swiggy and taxi aggregator apps Ola and Uber.

The PIL aims to argue that the gig workers or app-based workers fall within the meaning of “unorganized workers” or “wage workers” as per Sections 2(m) and 2(n) of the Unorganized Workers Social Welfare Security Act, 2008. If the state does not register these workers under the said Act, it would be violative of their rights enumerated under Articles 21 and 14 of the constitution, which provides the right to work, livelihood, decent and fair conditions of work, equality before the law, and equal protection of laws. The petitioners further contend that the denial of social security has resulted in their exploitation through forced labor within the meaning of Article 23 of the Constitution.

The petitioners aim to formulate specific schemes for these workers, which may include benefits such as health insurance, maternity benefits, pension, old age assistance, disability allowance, and completion of vaccination at the aggregator’s cost on a priority basis. They have relied on Chapter IX of The Code on Social Security, 2020 which deals with “Social Security for Unorganized Workers, Gig Workers and Platform Workers” and seeks to provide for framing schemes for unorganized workers to aver that recognition of Gig Workers and Platform Workers as unorganized workers in legislation is an indication of Centre’s policy for providing them social security. Further, reliance is placed on the UK Supreme Court judgment Uber BV vs Aslam, which stated that Uber must pay its drivers national living wage and 28 days paid holidays, from the time that drivers log onto the Uber app, and are willing and able to work. The petitioners claimed that Uber is a multinational entity that must treat all its employees with the same conditions worldwide.

The petitioners also demanded the court issue directions to the aggregator companies to provide economic relief to app-based workers in the nature of cash transfers of Rs 1175/- per day for app-based drivers and Rs 675/- per day until December 31, 2021, or until the time pandemic subsides. Lastly, issuance of directions to the financial institutions, banks or NBFC to not seize and/or auction vehicles of App-Based Workers on their failure to pay EMI’s of their loans till the pandemic continues and subjecting financial institutions, banks or NBFC to penalties on their failure to comply with the directions issued in RBI Circulars and top court judgment Small Scale Industrial Manufacturers Association v Union of India.