The Supreme Court on Monday sought the response of the Union government, Zomato and Swiggy besides cab operators Uber and Ola on a petition by the Indian Federation of Application Based Transport Workers (IFAT) seeking adequate social security measures. The petitioner alleged these workers in the gig economy are grossly exploited by their respective managements.
A bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice B.R.Gavai issued notices to the respondents and posted the matter for further hearing in January.
The IFAT said there existed an employer-employee relationship in these sectors yet the workers are denied their statutory benefits. The IFAT sought recognition of these unorganised workers in the form of benefits available to other workmen in the organised sector.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising appearing for the IFAT said those working for Uber are considered as workers globally.
She cited a UK Supreme Court ruling that stated the contract entered into by Uber with the staff was only a “subterfuge” as the real relation is that of an employer and an employee. Jaising sought a declaration from the court that these workers should be treated as workmen in the classical sense to confer on them all statutory benefits available to workmen across the country.
When the bench pointed out that the Social Security Code 2020 has a provision to extend the welfare benefits to the gig workers, Jaising said the government has not notified the code. Besides, sufficient welfare provisions exist in the Social Security Act, 2008, that have not been implemented. The Act among other things provides for a monthly pension of Rs 3,000 to each worker.
The IFAT said that despite the Act, lakhs of workers employed in these sectors are being denied their statutory benefits and being exploited by the managements. In view of the pandemic, the petition also sought a transfer of Rs 1,175 per day to all application-based drivers and Rs 675 per day to all other workers till December 31, 2021.
The petition filed by way of a PIL said the denial of social security to the workers such as pension and health insurance is an affront to their fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
It also violated Article 23 which prohibits trafficking in human beings and forced labour.