Allegations are mounting against the food delivery unicorn (startup with a valuation of more $1 billion), Swiggy, for breaking the unprecedented unity of its delivery workers in Hyderabad, whose strike action for more wages has entered 12th day on Saturday, September 26.
The company has been accused by the union leaders for luring the striking delivery boys with incentives to not protest instead of addressing the issues. As much as Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 for completing orders for half a day has been offered, it has been alleged.
“Swiggy is trying to break the unity of the delivery workers. They are also threatening workers with police complaints and suspension from work,” said Shaik Salauddin, national general secretary of the Hyderabad-based Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT). “But the attempts are to no avail, at least till now. The strike continues and will remain so until our demands are not met,” he added.
Nearly 3,500 Swiggy delivery executives have been on strike in Hyderabad, according to IFAT, against reduction in “pay-out” for delivery orders, incentives and per km charge. A new wage policy, carrying the said cuts, was introduced last month that had triggered protests in other metropolitan cities as well including Chennai and Delhi, among others.
The allegation that the food delivery giant is desperately wanting a section of its personnels to get back to work by hook or by crook, which will above all save the company from engaging into negotiations over wages, were fuelled when the management stayed away from a joint meeting called by Telangana Labour Department.
Also read: Food Delivery Workers Protest Incentive Cuts Despite ‘Recovery’ Projections
A meeting was scheduled on Saturday between the management of Swiggy and the representatives of IFAT in the presence of the Joint Commissioner of Labour (JCL) of Rangareddy Zone, a sub-locality in Hyderabad, “to resolve the issues raised by the [Swiggy] employees.”
However, the management of Swiggy have sought time till Monday saying it will resolve the issues with the striking delivery workers on its own, Salauddin told NewsClick, while referring to what he was informed by the labour department.
On being approached for his comment, R. Chandra Shekaram, JCL, Rangareddy zone, refused to talk citing a busy schedule.
“Even though fuel prices have increased in last few months, the Swiggy management have reduced the per/km charges for the delivery executives taking undue benefit of the ongoing epidemic,” the app-based workers’ body had said earlier in its letter to the state’s labour department.
“We fear that by taking time till Monday, Swiggy will only intensify its attempt to break the strike and will want to continue with its business as usual,” Salauddin said. Such attempts also included increasing the process of outsourcing of the delivery orders to third party companies, he added.
In earlier press statements, Swiggy had maintained that 80% of its staff is back at work in Hyderabad and only 20% are protesting.
“They are lying,” said a striking delivery worker, who didn’t wish to be named, and added “Can’t they just see boys in orange and black uniform taking to streets and sloganeering?”
As the strike continues, the delivery executives have also secured support from some of the restaurant operators who have stopped taking orders on Swiggy in solidarity with the protesters.
Taking a cue from the popular protests staged in United States of America (USA) against police repression, the delivery executives since last week also started taking a knee, albeit against the company.
Meanwhile, a work strike by Swiggy delivery executives, triggered similarly by the wage cuts, in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida has now been called off. “It’s off for now. It will restart later,” said a member of the All India Gig Workers Union (AIGWU), the body that had led the strike.
Also read: Striking for More Wages, Swiggy Workers Champion Collective Care
*Update: On Saturday evening, a communications agency representing Swiggy responded to the story by saying that the misgivings on the service fee of delivery partners in Hyderabad have been “successfully assuaged”.
Calling the allegations made by the app-based workers’ union “unsubstantiated”, the agency said, in an email response, that the average earning per order “remain at par if not better than industry standards,” “as a result of which we (Swiggy) have been operational in Hyderabad for a few days now.”
“With the beginning of the cricketing season and the surge in orders in the city, those who delivered with us over the last few days made an average of over Rs 60 per order,” the agency said, adding that Swiggy’s food and essentials delivery segment in Hyderabad continues to register an “upward trend in order volume.”
Shaik Saluddin of IFAT, the union leading the delivery executives’ strike in Hyderabad, however, had a different take on it. He contended that Swiggy’s food delivery operations continue in several regions of the city, but added that “it is only because of the increased outsourcing of delivering operations to third party companies like Shadowfax and Rapido,” in the wake of the ongoing strike.
He maintained that around 3,500 delivery executives, donning Swiggy’s orange and black uniform, continue to partake in the strike in Hyderabad – even after 12 days. “They demand a hike in their base pay-per-order and not seasonal incentives,” Saluddin told NewsClick. Introduced in August, the new wage policy of Swiggy had allegedly reduced the base amount per order completion from Rs. 35 to Rs. 15.
* The story has been updated after reply by Swiggy.