In the recent past, the screenshots have been shared on social media, especially Twitter, by people claiming to be riders with Swiggy and Zomato, the two food-delivery companies in the country.
These snaps, often accompanied with a personal ordeal, provided a peek into what it is like to work after entering into the ‘partnership’ with app-based food delivery platforms; the income is allegedly abysmal even as daily working hours remain as high as ten to twelve; there is little social security; and above all, there is no respite in sight.
The micro-blogging website was soon flooded with academics, activists, and citizens expressing solidarity with the food delivery personnels in their struggle. The “positive response” has now prompted a Telangana-based union of gig and platform workers to launch training sessions to familiarise delivery workers with using social media “to highlight their work experience”.
Indian Federation of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT) announced on Wednesday, August 11, that it will launch social media training in different cities across the country in days to come for the workers engaged in delivery business. The umbrella body, in a press statement, said that the screenshots circulating on Twitter, “clearly exposes the work condition” of delivery workers.
Encouraged by the positive response, to the same, the federation "will be launching social media training in different cities to familiarize delivery workers with using Twitter, Instagram and other innovative ways to highlight their work experience", the statement said.
NewsClick reached out to Swiggy and Zomato over e-mail for a comment on the development, but was still awaiting a response from their respective ends at the time of publication.
Shaik Salauddin, national general secretary of IFAT explained the rationale behind this announcement. The food delivery workers have realised the power of social media and are now able to connect directly with the larger world to share the problem of the exploitative work conditions that they face, he said.
In the past few weeks, posts by Twitter handles, namely, @SwiggyDEHyd and @DeliveryBhoy are among other users that have gained much attention on the micro-blogging website for bringing to the fore the issues that are currently being faced the food delivery workers.
With tweets that air the day-to-day grievances, including low delivery rates, lack of long-distance bonus, and daily earning caps of the delivery workers, these handles managed to garner close to 3,000 followers each in a short span of period.
On Thursday, NewsClick found @SwiggyDEHyd to be inaccessible for the reasons that could not be ascertained.
The training sessions will allow more and more delivery personnels to come forward and “call out the lies” of the food delivery platforms regarding the working conditions in public, reasoned Salauddin, who chose to call it a “transparency war.”
“The youth entering the gig and platform economy might be uneducated but they all certainly know how to use use Facebook or Instagram. The union plans to educate these workers on how the social media can effectively be used to raise their issues,” said Salauddin, who is also the president of the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union.
According to him, it will also apprise people about the working conditions within the gig economy, especially those who have not yet become part of the gig workforce but are pushed to join it nonetheless, due to various reasons.
The economics of the gig world is marked with increasing precarity—and it has only got worsened post the COVID-19 pandemic. This was evident last year, when multiple work strikes of the food delivery workers were witnessed in major metropolitan cities including in Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad and Chennai, among others.
Aditi Surie, a researcher with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) in Bengaluru opined on Thursday that the move by the delivery workers to taking to social media is great, for it allows the customers of the food delivery apps to know and talk about the delivery workers’ issues.
“This is not the first time when such an attempt has been made. Most of the gig workers were already using YouTube a lot – they would make videos in which they are seen talking about their work. Twitter is yet another digital tool in this line,” Surie, whose work is focused on technology and the informal economy, said.
Moreover, Surie added, it is encouraging to see a union taking up the initiative to train delivery workers on how to use social media for this purpose. “In gig economy, with the absence of a workplace as such, social media platforms often serve an effective alternative to organise workers and build a movement,” she said.
Meanwhile, the recent screenshots of order earnings by food delivery workers have also resulted into to a solidarity statement released on Wednesday by IFAT, that demands increase in base fares for the food delivery workers and a dedicated department within the app companies that is tasked with looking after the workers’ insurance schemes.
“We request the support of restaurants, customers and empathetic persons in demanding that concerned government authorities and food delivery businesses bring an end to these exploitative work conditions,” said the statement, signed by over 350 workers’ unions, researchers, lawyers and concerned citizens.