Indian Federation of App-based Transport workers (IFAT) has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India on September 20, 2021, to pursue the Indian government to help the app-based transport and delivery workers affected by the pandemic.
The petitioners have alleged that the failure to register gig workers as unorganized workers and provide them with social security under existing law is a violation of rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India — “the right to work, the right to livelihood; right to decent and fair conditions of work.
“It is also a denial of the right to equality before the law and equal protection of laws since they are similarly situated with all other workers under the applicable social security laws including the Act of 2008 thereby violating Article 14 of the constitution of India (COI),” the PIL reads.
The issues ailing these gig workers
Drivers who drive for companies such as Ola and Uber and delivery partners of companies such as Swiggy and Zomato are not on the company payroll and get paid per task — and hence are gig workers. Since they are not full-time employees, they do not receive the benefits that salaried employees do.
The PIL claimed that the denial of social security benefits to gig and platform workers has resulted in their “exploitation through forced labor within the meaning of Article 23 of the CoI”. Article 23 of the Constitution refers to the prohibition of human trafficking and forced labor.
The PIL refers to the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, which was enacted to provide social security and welfare to them. It adds that gig workers, however, aren’t covered under the same.
The Code on Social Security, 2020, was recently brought to amend and consolidate laws relating to social security and is the first time that an attempt is being made to bring gig workers under the law and provide social security. The Code is yet to come into force.
“At present, these workers are not being provided the benefit of social security under any of the labor legislations-organized or unorganized. It defeats the very purpose of the social- welfare legislations, which seek to ensure social security to the workers,” the PIL mentions.
The IFAT PIL alleged that there has been a steep decline in average monthly income and that they did not receive support. Its survey added that drivers and driver-partners spend close to 16 to 20 hours in their cars each day.