UK-based FairWork Foundation, supported by The Oxford Internet Institute, which published its third India report on Wednesday, on the labour standards in India’s ‘platform’ economy has put Flipkart on the first spot, up from the second spot last year. Fairwork focuses on five principles of fair gig work: Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation. This study evaluates and awards a basic and an advanced point to a platform for each principle. Thus, a platform can earn a maximum of ten points.
The Fairwork India Ratings 2021 scores 11 platforms, including Amazon, BigBasket, Dunzo, Flipkart, Ola, PharmEasy, Porter, Swiggy, Uber, Urban Company and Zomato. However, this year not a single platform scored more than seven out of the maximum of ten points, and none scored all basic points across the five principles.
Fair pay: This year, BigBasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company committed to ensuring that all gig workers on their platforms will earn at least the hourly local minimum wage after factoring in their workrelated costs.
While not all platforms experienced a decline in demand for their services, workers’ takehome earnings declined across all the platforms studied , in part owing to the increase in workrelated costs (such as fuel costs and platform commissions). This decline is also in keeping with the long-term decline in the incomes of workers due to a decrease in rate cards and incentives.
Fair conditions: Gig workers face several risks during the course of their work. To the list of risks workers routinely face, including road accidents, theft, violence, and adverse weather conditions, there was the risk of COVID-19 infection in 2020- 2021. While several platforms introduced COVID-19 safety measures, along with improvements to their insurance policies for their platform workers, only Flipkart and Urban Company were awarded the basic and advanced points under the Fair Conditions principle. Besides offering COVID-19-specific income protection this year to their workers, both platforms also promised to compensate for loss of income that would extend to situations beyond COVID-19.
Fair contracts: The basic point under Fair Contract was awarded to platforms that met two thresholds. One, they had to provide accessible, readable and comprehensible agreements and, two, they had to have a process of notifying workers prior to any changes in their contractual terms. Only BigBasket, Flipkart, Swiggy and Zomato were awarded this point because of their measures to enhance comprehensibility, including the provision of multi-lingual 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. Of the 11 platforms, three (Flipkart, Swiggy and Zomato) incorporated symmetric limited liability clauses in worker agreements. Swiggy and Zomato provided workers some autonomy in choice of arbitrator or jurisdiction of court.
Fair management: Platforms fared relatively well under the Fair Management principle, with BigBasket, Dunzo, Flipkart, PharmEasy, Swiggy, Urban Company and Zomato all awarded the basic point because they had policies for grievance redressal (including Prevention of Sexual Harassment policies), and either functioning communication channels (WhatsApp groups or chat options with the ability to reach a human representative) or detailed plans of action for improving their redressal systems. BigBasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, and Urban Company also scored the advanced point as they have now adopted policies against discrimination of their gig workers, and have committed to regular, independent audits to ensure there are no biases in their work allocation systems.
Fair Representation: Despite the rise in gig worker collectivisation in India, none of the platforms expressed a willingness to recognise a collective body of workers or a trade union.
Highlights: Minimum wage with costs commitment
This year BigBasket instituted a “Gig Workers Payment policy” (effective from December 1, 2021) which ensures that all gig workers earn at least the hourly minimum wage after factoring in work-related costs (which will be decided in periodic consultation with workers).
Flipkart publicly committed on December 2, 2021 to ensuring hourly minimum wage after costs for all last-mile delivery gig workers engaged by Flipkart (Instakart) and those workers who are subcontracted.
Urban Company committed on November 30, 2021 to ensuring that its workers’ earnings do not fall below the prescribed hourly minimum wage after factoring in workers’ job-related costs.
Making insurance more accessible:
Swiggy has changed their communication and insurance policies to increase awareness amongst workers and to make the insurance claims process easier. Zomato is working towards increasing awareness of their insurance policies and claims procedures amongst their workers.
Paid leave and safety nets:
Flipkart committed to instituting a paid leave policy for the health protection of its gig delivery workforce with compensation that will match the worker’s daily average earnings, by April 2022. Urban Company has committed to a loss of pay scheme for its workers by Q1 2022.
Reducing asymmetries in liabilities:
Swiggy has incorporated a limited liability clause with an explicit pecuniary cap for any liability claims against workers, save any criminal liability claims and any claims arising from any unlawful commissions or comissions by workers. Zomato will enforce a similar clause by January 2022. Zomato will also incorporate clauses to refund any wrongful monetary losses suffered by workers in identified circumstances.
Grievance redressal mechanisms:
Swiggy will revamp their delivery partner system interface to improve the ease of raising and tracking tickets and will deploy these policies by March 2022. Zomato will update its training material to make workers more aware of their ability to dispute penalties.
Auditing work allocation:
BigBasket, Flipkart, Swiggy and Urban Company have committed to instituting regular audits to check for bias in the outcomes of their (manual or automated) work allocation processes / systems.
“We hope that platforms, workers, regulators and consumers, will use the Fairwork framework and ratings to imagine, and realize, a fairer platform economy in India”, said Professors Balaji Parthasarathy and Janaki Srinivasan, the Principal Investigators of the team.