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Adaptability that Retail Platforms Seek

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The report examines the work conditions of platform workers on digital labour platforms in India. It evaluates 12 platforms offering location-based services in sectors such as domestic and personal care, logistics, food delivery, e-pharmacy, and transportation in India.

The Fairwork India Team, led by the Centre for IT and Public Policy (CITAPP), International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIIT-B), in association with Oxford University, presented the Fairwork India Ratings 2022: Labour Standards in the Platform Economy report. This report examines the work conditions of platform workers on digital labour platforms in India. It evaluates 12 platforms offering location-based services in sectors such as domestic and personal care, logistics, food delivery, e-pharmacy, and transportation, in India.

The 2022 report is structured around the theme of flexibility. “The promise of flexibility of the digital platform economy raises as many questions about livelihoods as it oȮ ers opportunities. We hope the Fairwork report provides the basis for an interpretation of flexibility that allows for not merely the adaptability that platforms seek, but also the income and social security that workers lack”, said Professors BalajiParthasarathy and Janaki Srinivasan, the Principal Investigators of the team, along with researchersMounika Neerukonda, Amruta Mahuli, Bilahari M, Damni Kainand Pradyumna Taduri in India.

Fairwork assessed platforms against ȱ ve principles: Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation. Every platform receives a score out of 10. Through a combination of desk research and worker interviews conducted in Bangalore, Delhi, and Kochi, and wherever possible, from evidence provided by the platforms, the Fairwork India Ratings 2022 scores 12 platforms, including Amazon Flex, bigbasket, Dunzo, Flipkart, Ola, PharmEasy, Porter, Swiggy, Uber, Urban Company, Zepto and Zomato. This year, no platform scored more than seven out of the maximum of ten points, and none scored all the first points across the five principles.

  1. There are two highlights to this year’s findings. Firstly, the same three platforms that scored the first point for Fair Pay last year scored a point this year too. No other platform publicly committed, or provided sufficient evidence, to ensure that workers earn at least the hourly local minimum wage after work-related costs. Even with workers and worker groups repeatedly emphasising the importance of a stable income for platform workers, platforms have been reluctant to publicly commit to, and operationalise, a minimum wage policy. Secondly, while workers have engaged in various forms of collective action to voice their concerns in the platform economy, platforms have been uncompromisingly unwilling to recognise or negotiate with any collective body representing workers.
  2. This year bigbasket, Flipkart, and Urban Company implemented and operationalised policies to ensure that all workers on these platforms earn at least the hourly local minimum wage after factoring in work-related costs. No platform made the second point which requires platforms to commit or provide sufficient evidence that workers earn at least the local living wage after work-related costs.
  3. Bigbasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company, and Zomato were awarded the ȱ rst point under Fair Conditions for simplifying their insurance claims processes and for having operational emergency helplines on the platform interface. Only bigbasket, Swiggy, and Urban Company were awarded the second point for implementing a loss of pay policy that provides workers with a financial safety net during medical illnesses.
  4. Seven out of twelve platforms were awarded the first point for Fair Contracts. bigbasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, Porter, Urban Company, Zepto, and Zomato were awarded this point for ensuring accessibility of their contracts and implementing a notice period before changes are made. Additionally, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company, Zepto and Zomato, have modiȱ ed their contracts to reduce the asymmetry in liabilities and have added a clause for dispute resolution between workers and platforms, and hence met the second point under Fair Contracts.
  5. bigbasket, Flipkart, Swiggy, Urban Company, and Zomato were awarded the first point for Fair Management for having a grievance redressal process with the option to connect with a human representative of the platform. There was sufficient evidence only from Urban Company to meet the second point for the principle. It instituted regular, external audits to check for biases in its work allocation systems, in addition to adopting policies against the discrimination of its platform workers.
  6. Representation through a collective body or trade union is a vital dimension of fairness at work. It is disconcerting that despite the rise in platform worker collectivisation across the country, like last year, there was insufficient evidence from any platform to show willingness to recognise a collective body of workers. Consequently, no platform could be awarded a point for this principle.

Fairwork works towards highlighting the best and worst practices in the platform economy. It developed its ȱ ve principles of work through a literature review of published research on job quality, stakeholder meetings at UNCTAD and the ILO in Geneva and in-country meetings with local stakeholders. By evaluating platforms against measures of fairness, Fairworkwants to show what the platform economy is and also what it can be.

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