“Gig workers” have petitioned the SC for social security benefits from companies such as food delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy, as well as taxi aggregator apps Ola and Uber. The petitioners argue that because they have an employment relationship with the aggregators, they are covered by social security legislation’s definition of “workman.”
The petitioners further claimed that, under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Welfare Security Act, 2008, they are unorganized workers and hence entitled to social security.
It was argued that the State’s failure to register them under the Act is a violation of their fundamental rights, especially as the legislation was created in accordance with State Policy Directives in order to guarantee workers’ basic human dignity.
The refusal of Social Security payments to the aforementioned “gig workers” and “platform workers” amounts to forced labour, as defined by Article 23 of the Constitution. The right to a decent and fair income is part of the right to a livelihood, according to the petition.
According to the petitioners, the respondent companies claim that they do not have an employment contract with the petitioners and that their relationship with them is more akin to a partnership.
The petitioners said that accepting such a claim would be “inconsistent with the purpose of social-welfare legislation.”
Respondent companies are said to exercise complete supervision and control over the manner and method of work with those who are allowed to register on the apps in this regard.
“According to the petition, “the simple fact that their employers designate to themselves as “aggregators” and enter into so-called “partnership agreements” does not negate the existence of a legal relationship between employer and employee, master-servant and worker within the scope of applicable legislation.”
Furthermore, it was argued that fixed-term employment contracts are “take it or leave it” in nature and that workers have little choice but to sign them in order to keep their jobs.
“Contracts are merely a means of disguising the nature of the de-jure link, and hence the de-facto relationship, which might be a contract of employment, between the employer and the employee.”