App-based workers federation serves writ petition to Zomato, Swiggy, Ola, Uber India

The petition seeks the Supreme Court's intervention to direct the Government to notify or recognise app based workers as 'workers'.
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Food aggregator Zomato informed stock exchanges on Wednesday about a writ petition in the nature of public interest litigation (PIL) before the Supreme Court of India from the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT).

The IFAT, formed in September 2019, is a workers' organisation representing app-based transport and delivery workers.

Its petition names Zomato, Bundl Technologies (Swiggy), ANI Technologies (Ola), and UberIndia Systems, as respondents, apart from central government ministries, according to the exchange filing.

The writ petition seeks the Supreme Court's intervention to direct the Government to "notify or recognize app based workers as 'workers' or alternatively be recognised as 'unorganised workers' or 'wage workers' under various labour or social security legislations", Zomato informed the stock markets.

Further, the IFAT has demanded a cess for operating schemes for app-based workers, and seeks directions for COVID-19 pandemic related relief for app-based workers, according to Zomato's stock-exchange filing.

The writ petition notes that the Centre has formulated a Code on Social Security, 2020, which sets forth benefits for "gig workers" and "platform workers",  but is yet to be notified.

YourStory reached out to Swiggy and Uber who declined to comment. At the time of publishing this story, Ola had not responded to YourStory's queries.

Zomato's last-mile hyperlocal delivery fleet has more than three lakh delivery partners on a monthly active basis, as of September 30, 2021, according to Zomato.

According to its initial public offering (IPO) prospectus, Zomato's delivery partners are not employees in terms of the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.

But the company warned shareholders that "any interpretation that renders us a deemed employer of our delivery partners may result in increased costs, and adversely impact our business and operating models, our results of operation, cash flows and financial condition".

The government has introduced the Code on Wages, 2019, the Code on Social Security, 2020, the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, and the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 which will replace existing central labour legislations.

The Social Security Code, 2020, aims to bring uniformity in providing social security benefits to employees. It relates to workers outside traditional employer-employee work arrangements, including in online and digital platform.

The 'platform workers' or 'gig workers', according to the Social Security Code, 2020, can be workers of ride-sharing services, food and grocery delivery services, logistic services, online marketplaces and inventory platforms for wholesale or retail sale of goods and services, professional services providers, healthcare, travel and hospitality, and content and media services.

The Social Security Code provides for mandatory registration of workers (on the e-shram portal) to enable them to avail benefits of life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits, old age protection, under specified schemes.

The central schemes may be partly funded by contributions from digital aggregators and platforms. The contribution would be to a social security fund for the welfare of the unorganised workers, gig workers, and platform workers.

The IFAT is waiting for the government notification to bring the Social Security Code, 2020 into effect, which is why the ministries have been named as respondents.

The aggregators' contribution will be 1- 2 percent of the annual turnover of every such aggregator who falls within a category of aggregators, according to the Social Security Code, 2020.

Similarly, the Wages Code limits the amounts that may be excluded from being accounted toward employment benefits (such as gratuity and maternity benefits) to a maximum of 50 percent of the wages payable to employees, according to Zomato's prospectus.

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