Karti P Chidambaram, Congress MP from Tamil Nadu, has raised the issue of lack of social security protection for gig workers. He spoke to Liz Mathew
What is your concern about the gig workers?
In the gig economy, there is an informal relation between the employer and the worker, and the latter is not considered a formal employee. We have around 13 million people in this sector and they do not have any security like formal employees do. The app-based delivery companies put a lot of pressure on them to deliver in a stipulated time. This leads to rash driving etc.
You mentioned the absence of insurance for these workers.
It’s a serious issue. During Covid, one such employee, Salil Tripathy, died in an accident… there would be many such instances. The companies do not provide them insurance, and insurance companies cite a number of rules such as ‘the vehicle was not meant for commercial or delivery purpose’ to deny insurance coverage to them.
You also talked about the poor working conditions.
They do not have stipulated working hours and, due to their personal economic situation, they work long shifts. They have this pressure to have a quicker Turnaround Time (TAT) in order to boost the valuation of the companies that technically do not employ them, resulting in tragedies.
The lockdown period brought a lot of attention to this sector.
I do not think it made any difference. I have not seen any evidence to say these large companies have any intention to address these issues. The government made attempts to include the term gig worker in the Code on Social Security. But there is a need to evaluate the actual status of the implementation of the measures announced for them.
What is your demand now?
I want the government to bring in regulations for them. I have written to the labour minister about the protection and now I want to write to the transport minister that these workers are losing their licences for using their vehicles for commercial purposes. Insurance companies use this as an excuse too. I am also writing to the companies urging them to improve working conditions.