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App based  gig workers  move SC for social security benefits

"Gig Workers” have approached Supreme Court raising questions of great public and constitutional importance as to whether “Right to Social Security” is a guaranteed fundamental right for all working people employed in formal or informal sectors, thereby seeking social security benefits from food delivery apps such as Zomato and Swiggy and taxi aggregator apps Ola and Uber.

The present petition is filed by The Indian Federation of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT) which is a registered union and federation of Trade Union representing App based transport and delivery workers the petitioners who are commonly known as “gig workers” and “platform workers” have averred that they are covered by the definition of “workman” within the meaning of all the social security legislations since they are in an employment relationship with the aggregators.

It is stated in the plea that the petitioners are “unorganised workers” within the meaning of the ‘Unorganised Workers’ Social Welfare Security Act, 2008’ (“UW Act”) and are entitled to registration and social security under the said Act, the petitioners have sought for declaring “gig workers” and “app based workers” as “unorganized workers” and/or “wage workers” within the meaning of Section 2(m) and 2(n) of the Unorganised Workers Social Welfare Security Act, 2008.

The petitioners have also sought for formulation of specific schemes such as health insurance, maternity benefits, pension, old age assistance, disability allowance and completion of vaccination at Aggergator’s cost on priority basis.

According to the plea there exists no contract of employment between the Respondent’s companies (OlaCabs, Uber, Swiggy, Zomato) and the petitioners and that their relationship with the petitioners is in the nature of partnership, the gig workers have contended that acceptance of such claims would be inconsistent with the purpose of social welfare legislation.

Furthermore, it has been averred that the companies who own the Apps exercise complete supervision and control over the manner and method of work with those who are allowed to register on the said Apps.

Supporting their contention, the gig workers have also stated that,

“The mere fact that their employers call themselves “Aggregators” and enter into the so-called “partnership agreements” does not take away the fact that there exists a jural relationship of employer and employee; master and servant and worker within the meaning of all applicable laws. The said contracts are a mere device to disguise the nature of relationship, which is de-jure, and de-facto relationship of employer and worker being a contract of employment.”

 It is prayed that  directions may be issued to companies to provide economic relief to app based workers in the nature of cash transfers of Rs 1175/- per day for app based drivers and Rs 675/- per day until December 31 2021 or till the time pandemic subsides,Extension of distribution of food grains under the PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana to all App Based Workers irrespective of whether the App Based workers hold ration cards or not.