Urban Company Launches Legal Attack Against Protesting Gig Workers: 1st Time In India
Urban Company is taking its own workers to court, slamming their protests as “illegal” and “unlawful”.
In a first for an Indian company, it is pursuing legal action against its own women gig workers who were protesting against a change in the company’s policies outside its Gurugram office.
The case has been filed in the Gurgaon District Court which has summoned the accused on Wednesday morning.
The company has targeted four workers in particular, calling them the representatives of the other protesters since their number is “extremely large”, otherwise it would have sued them individually.
It has asked the court to remove the protestors from its premises and to stop them from protesting in front of their office compound.
Protestors’ Complaints: Pay To Get Work
The protestors have good reason to do what they’re doing.
The company started a new subscription system in which workers have to pay an upfront fee of Rs 3,000 (for prime) and Rs 2,000 (for classic) per month under a ‘minimum guarantee plan’.
The payment has to be made in order to be guaranteed work on the platform.
They would have to plan their monthly work calendar and take a minimum number of jobs.
If they fail to take up the set number of jobs, or have a low “response rate”, they will be categorised as Flexi.
These Flexi workers will be refused work between Monday to Friday.
Protestors’ Complaints: Not Considered Employees
The second exploitative tactic employed by the company is its refusal to acknowledge the workers as “employees”.
Protestors’ Complaints: Pay Incentives From Own Pockets
It doesn’t stop at that, the company further asks its high-performing workers to offer customers discounts in the range of 10% from their own earnings.
So, the workers doing the company’s work have to provide discounts from their own pockets to incentivise customers.
The All India Gig Workers’ Union wishes for the gig worker members to be classified as employees which would entitle them to benefits under legal infrastructure that would otherwise fail to protect them.
Protests Because No Other Option
Although the protests led to a discussion with the management including CEO Abhiraj Bhal, no settlement was reached.
Due to the lack of resolution, some women decided to stay back at the company’s gates to continue the strike.
The petition accused these women of laying out their bedding, etc across the main (closed) entrance of the office premises including the parking area.
They refused to leave despite intervention from the company’s personnel as well as Police officers.
The protestors slammed the petition as an intimidation tactic and said that they would wait for the court hearing.
Urban Company acknowledged that there was dissatisfaction and concerns from the workers regarding product prices and charges but the protests continued to “derail the collaborative and cooperative process for their unknown ulterior motives and vested interests”.
The company continued to cry wolf, calling their actions unlawful and a means to destabilise its business.
It did not stop there, continuing to describe their demands as “illicit and despicable” and that their unionising on a WhatsApp group was a “deeply meditated criminal conspiracy” against the aggrieved company.