COVID-19 relief measures for ‘gig workers’ | A Charter Of Recommendations

Tandem Research and The Centre for Internet and Society organised a webinar with unions representing gig workers and researchers to uncover the experiences of gig workers during the lockdown.

Tandem Research and The Centre for Internet and Society organised a webinar with unions representing gig workers and researchers on 9th April 2020 to uncover the experiences of gig workers during the lockdown. The aim of the discussion was to draft a set of recommendations for government and platforms to safeguard workers’ wellbeing. The letters below have been sent to platforms companies, the government and several state governments. [The letter has been edited for brevity]

Subject: A charter of recommendations | COVID-19 relief measures for ‘gig workers’

Dear Madam/Sir,

Hope you’re staying strong and keeping safe in these testing times.

The nationwide lockdown in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on ‘gig workers’ working for on-demand service platforms such as those providing ride-hailing, home-based work and food delivery services and also e-commerce companies..

Those driving for on-demand transportation companies have lost their source of livelihood as services remain suspended.

Workers for on-demand delivery and home-based services, on the other hand, have been deemed “essential” and continue to work although demand has fallen drastically. Earnings for delivery workers have fallen to as low as INR 100-300 per day for a whole day’s work. Workers face a high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their exposure to multiple customers. Apprehensions are rising after a delivery worker for Zomato tested positive for COVID-19 in New Delhi. Demand has fallen further but delivery workers must continue to put themselves and their families’ health and safety at risk with no provisions for personal protective equipment or other safety measures by companies.

The relief works announced by the central and state governments do not specifically provide for ‘gig workers’. At the same time, the measures announced by on-demand service companies are inadequate, ambiguous and inconsistent. The eligibility, manner and quantum of relief and the process of availing relief is unclear to workers.

We urge you to bolster the socio-economic and healthcare protections for ‘gig workers’ in India in light of the outbreak of COVID-19. Any efforts aimed at directing relief to ‘gig workers’ will have to be combined, involving the central and state governments and on-demand service companies.


We suggest that the measures adopted incorporate the recommendations outlined below. The recommendations have been drafted after discussion between civil society actors including labour unions from delivery and transportation sectors, researchers, and activists. A summary of the discussions leading to this charter of recommendations can be found here.

We urge you to issue appropriate orders/directions/guidances to ensure the well being of millions of ‘gig workers’ in India.

Please feel free to reach out to Aayush Rathi (aayush@cis-india.org) or Zothan Mawii (mawii@tandemresearch.org) for any clarification or further discussion.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Aayush Rathi, Ambika Tandon and Tasneem Mewa, The Centre for Internet and Society, India
  2. Aditi Surie, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
  3. Anita Gurumurthy and Nandini Chami, IT for Change
  4. Astha Kapoor, Aapti Institute
  5. Dharmendra Vaishnav, Indian Delivery Lions (IDL)
  6. Janaki Srinivasan, International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore
  7. Kaveri Medappa, The University of Sussex
  8. P. Vignesh Ilavarasan, Researcher and professor
  9. Pradyumna Taduri, Fairwork Foundation
  10. Rakhi Sehgal, Gurgaon Shramik Kendra
  11. Sangeet Jain, Researcher
  12. Shaik Salauddin, Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT)
  13. Shohini Sengupta, Assistant Professor of Research, Jindal School of Banking and Finance
  14. Simiran Lalvani, Independent researcher
  15. Tanveer Pasha, Ola, Taxi 4 Sure and Uber Drivers and Owners’ Association (OTU)
  16. Vinay K. Sreenivasa, Advocate, Alternative Law Forum
  17. Vinay Sarathy, United Food Delivery Partners’ Union (UFDPU)
  18. Zothan Mawii, Iona Eckstein and Urvashi Aneja, Tandem Research

Authors

Zothan Mawii

Zothan Mawii is Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her current work focuses on the impact of digital technologies on labour markets in the global south and the intersection between gender and emerging technologies. She has been studying the impact of digital labour platforms in emerging economies, conducting extensive field work in India, South Africa, and Myanmar. Key to her research are questions around changing employment relations and the nature of work, worker well-being, and worker rights in technology mediated work. Her research interests include digital labour, online social movements, the care economy, feminist perspectives on technology, and internet rights. She has previously worked on issues around internet shutdowns and online violence against women. She holds a MA in Digital Culture and Society from King's College London and a BA (Hons) in English from St. Stephen's College, DU.