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Tamil Nadu CITU Demands Legal Protection for Gig Workers

MK Stalin had announced that a welfare board would be set up for gig workers.

Representational use only.

In his Independence Day speech, Tamil Nadu chief minister (CM) MK Stalin announced that a welfare board would be set up for workers with food and cab aggregators. 

“Starting from Chennai, in all other cities, one scene which we witness frequently is workers of Ola, Uber, Swiggy and Zomato travelling to provide their services quickly. The lives of these employees who work against the clock are important. To safeguard their overall welfare, a separate board will be set up,” Stalin said at Fort St George, Chennai.  

Gig workers and trade unions welcomed the announcement as a progressive relief to gig workers, employed without job security, social security and other benefits.  

However, the Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU) has pointed out that the fundamental problem is that these workers are not classified as ‘workers’ thereby not eligible for rights such as forming trade unions and placing their demands.

“There is no employer-employee relationship in this industry, which employs millions of people. There is no basic justification for this argument. Anyone who profits from work done by a labourer is their employer. No company like Swiggy, Zomato, Ola and Uber can say that its employees are not workers,” CITU Tamil Nadu president A Soundararajan said in a statement.

“No law applies to these workers—no order of appointment, no permanency and no paid weekends. Neither working hours are fixed nor minimum wage is guaranteed. There is no social security like provident fund, healthcare facilities, etc.,” he added.

According to him, the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947, “should ideally apply to these workers; otherwise, a separate law should be enacted for them”.

Soundararajan said that gig workers are treated like “platform workers,” a reference to homeless and unemployed people and because they are found on the street sides waiting to deliver. It is also a reference to how they are mistreated. “Turning off the application, chasing them out of work and denying them the opportunity to express their views is unacceptable and is against natural justice,” he added. 

Therefore, the CITU demanded that Stalin take appropriate measures to provide legal protection and labour rights to gig workers and not merely form a welfare board.

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