The Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) has made a submission to the Ministry of Labour and Employment over the ongoing consultation on the Draft Code on Social Security (Central) Rules, 2020. Several other labour unions and civil society organisations which are concerned about the impact of the ongoing labour law reform process on platform and gig workers’ rights have also signed the submission.
While welcoming the inclusion of platform and gig workers in the Code on Social Security, 2020, the memorandum states that the Draft Rules do not provide for universal social security for platform workers. Further, the age limitations and other eligibility criteria will impose restrictions on the section of workers who can avail this benefit. Therefore, the unions demand that “all workers associated with any of the nine classes of aggregators be treated as platform workers” and that irrespective of the terms agent or contractor, all concerned workers should be treated as platform workers.
Among the prominent trade unions who are signatories to the submission include the All India Gig Workers Union; All India IT and ITeS Employees’ Union; All India Railwaymens' Federation; Hind Mazdoor Sabha; Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers; and National Union of Seafarers of India. Civil society organisations including IT for Change; Kamgar va Majur Sangh; The Centre for Internet & Society; Partners in Change and the Working Peoples Charter, India; have also signed the submission.
The submission, dated December 21, also raised concerns about the aggregator contributions towards the social security schemes. Since, platform workers may work for “several aggregators simultaneously, and be engaged as workers for intermittent and irregular periods of time”, the unions have demanded clarity on how these contributions will be assessed in the context of the reality of platform work arrangements is needed. Not only that, it should also be outlined how “the the number of days worked impacts the nature and extent of social protection that platform workers are eligible for”.
They have also demanded that there should be clear guidelines on the condition under which exemptions from contributions to social security can be made for aggregators, to ensure that they do not evade their responsibilities towards their platform workers and gig workers.
Further, the Draft Rules also provide for a centralised database of platform workers and gig workers, that will be supported by the sharing of data by aggregators with the State. However, in the absence of personal data protection legislation, it can have serious impact on the workers’ data rights and privacy, the submission stated. In such a scenario, there should be limitation safeguards in the Draft Rules to prevent any excesses by aggregators and the workers should have the right to edit, correct and dispute the records of aggregators. It also demands that workers should be given the right to retain a certified, machine-readable copy of their data.
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Highlighting that there is no clarity on the constitution of the National Social Security Board for Gig Workers and Platform Workers, the submission demands a specific timeline for its constitution. In addition to that, there should also be a prescribed transparent process for the government's nomination of platform workers' representatives, with effective representation from trade unions and workers’ organisations, according to the submission.
Instead of a centralised database, the trade unions have suggested a federated data architecture for management of worker databases. Such a system, the submission states, will make “room for democratic and decentralised data management by workers themselves with involvement from state and local government agencies (building on labour welfare models)”.