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Protest Called Off But Service Professionals at Urban Company Say Fight Will Continue

Aggrieved over the introduction of a new subscription plan which is feared to impact the monthly earnings of the working women, they began a demonstration at gig platform’s Gurugram office earlier this week.
Protest Called Off But Service Professionals at Urban Company Say Fight Will Continue

New Delhi: Weeks after Asia’s largest home services provider, Urban Company, sued the working women partnered with the platform for alleged “unfair labour practices,” the latter claims that the fight for their “just rights” will continue – even as the demonstration that had ensued the lawsuit has been called off for now.

“Some of us were served with the notices at the protest site itself but we didn’t accept them. The protest has been called off for now but the fight for our just rights will continue through not just demonstrations but other means as well,” Seema Singh, one of the protesters, who work as a beautician told NewsClick on Friday. She added that the matter, the contentious policy changes proposed by the company, stand unresolved as yet.

Earlier this week, on December 20, women ‘partners’ of the Urban Company began a demonstration outside the gig platform’s Gurugram office. The protesting women were aggrieved over the introduction of a new subscription plan which is feared to impact the monthly earnings of the working women.

The company is implementing a subscription system under which the partners will have to pay a monthly fee to the company in advance, Gunjan, another beautician with the Urban Company explained it to NewsClick. According to her, under the new plan, the partner will need to take up a minimum number of services in the month, failing of which, the formers’ deposit will be lost.

Launched in 2014 as UrbanClap, the home services platform, now Urban Company claims to be Asia’s largest in its segment. With a fleet of thousands of trained professionals in countries including India, Australia, Singapore, the UAE and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the platform offers home services related to salon, makeup, massages, grooming, cleaning, pest control, etc. According to media reports, the new plan is scheduled to be implemented from January next year.

The Monday’s demonstration, which continued over the next two days, was followed up with the Urban Company management seeking directions to the workers and their associates to cease their “illegal” protest and vacate the company’s premises. According to the lawsuit, a copy of which has been accessed by NewsClick, the plaintiff, ‘UrbanClap Technologies’, has sought a permanent prohibitory injunction restraining them from “holding any demonstration, dharna, rally, gherao, peace march, shouting slogans, entering or assembling at or near office premise...”

Notably, in October too, over a hundred women partners with the Urban Company had staged a protest against the persistent high commissions charged from them which consequently leads to dwindling incomes. In response, the gig platform had then slashed commission rates and increased prices for services in the beauty segment.

Meanwhile, solidarity has been poured in from different quarters of the country for the protesting women. A Delhi-based All India Gig Workers Union (AIGWU) had extended solidarity with the protesting women and condemned the Urban Company for engaging in bids to “coerce workers and penalise low response rates through access control...”

Solidarity was also expressed by the Telangana-based Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) which raised the demand to classify gig workers as employees.

To be sure, protests by gig workers, who are reeling under the pressure of high commissions and resultant low income, have been on the rise in recent years. Moreover, earlier, this month, the Supreme Court had also sought the Centre’s response to a plea seeking social security benefits for the gig workers employed by food delivery and taxi-hailing platforms such as Zomato, Swiggy, Ola, Uber, among others.

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