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Gig platforms slow to adopt minimum wage policy: Study

BENGALURU: Workers and their groups may have been repeatedly emphasising the importance of a stable income at gig platforms. But researchers have highlighted in a recent report that most of these platforms have been reluctant to publicly commit to, and operationalise, a minimum wage policy.
However, Bigbasket, Flipkart and Urban Company implemented and operationalised policies to ensure that all workers on these platforms earn at least the hourly local minimum wage, after factoring in work-related costs, according to the Fairwork India Ratings 2022 report.
The Fairwork India team — headed by the Centre for IT and Public Policy (CITAPP), International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIIT-B), in association with Oxford University — evaluates the working conditions in gig worker platforms. It then ranks them on how well they do on five principles — fair pay, conditions, contracts, management and representation.

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Each principle is broken down into two points: A first point, and then a second point that can only be awarded if the first point has been fulfilled. Every platform receives a score out of 10. Platforms are only awarded a point when they can sufficiently demonstrate or commit to the implementation of the principle. Amazon Flex, Dunzo, Ola, Pharmeasy, and Uber got zero out of 10 points.
The same three platforms that scored the first point forfair pay last year scored a point this year too. No other platform publicly committed, or provided sufficient evidence, to ensure workers earn at least the hourly local minimum wage after work-related costs.
Bigbasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company and Zomato were awarded the first point under fair conditions for simplifying their insurance claims processes and for having operational emergency helplines on the platform interface. Only Bigbasket, Swiggy and Urban Company were awarded the second point for implementing a loss of pay policy that provides workers with a financial safety net during medical illnesses.
Bigbasket, Flipkart, Porter, Swiggy, Urban Company, Zepto and Zomato were ahead of their peers in fair contract because of their measures to enhance comprehensibility, including the provision of multilingual agreements, and a commitment to a process/ policy for notifying workers of changes in their terms of engagement within a specified time before its enforcement.
“The promise of flexibility of the digital platform economy raises as many questions about livelihoods as it offers opportunities. We hope the Fairwork report provides the basis for an interpretation of flexibility that allows for not merely the adaptability that platforms seek, but also the income and social security workers lack,” said professors Balaji Parthasarathy and Janaki Srinivasan, the principal investigators of the team, along with researchers Mounika Neerukonda, Amruta Mahuli, Bilahari M, Damni Kain and Pradyumna Taduri.
Bigbasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company and Zomato were awarded the first point for fair management for having a grievance redressal process with the option to connect with a human representative of the platform. There was sufficient evidence only from Urban Company to meet the second point for the principle. It instituted regular external audits to check for biases in its work allocation systems, in addition to adopting policies against the discrimination of its platform workers.
However, the gig workers face steep challenges. Even as instances of abuse and discrimination against platform workers have surfaced this year, the report highlighted that the legal landscape of the platform economy in India remains largely unchanged. Members of Parliament have directed attention to the need for reform, yet the Code on Social Security and the Motor Vehicle Aggregator guidelines, 2020, both of which regulate the conditions of platform workers, await enforcement. The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, which is likely to have repercussions for the data collected from platform workers, is yet to be passed by Parliament. The PIL filed before the Supreme Court by the Indian Federation of App-based Transport workers (IFAT), to reclassify platform workers as unorganised workers or employees, too awaits a decision.

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