Why are Blinkit workers protesting?

Source: The post is based on the article “Why are Blinkit workers protesting?” published in The Hindu on 3rd May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Growth, Development and employment

Relevance: concern associated with gig workers

News: The strike by Blinkit delivery agents has highlighted the situation of gig workers India. The article discusses the issues concerning gig workers.

Who is a gig worker?

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What is the problem with the recognition of gig workers?

In India, employees are entitled to benefits under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (EPFA), and the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965.

Similarly, contract laborers are governed under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, and are also entitled to benefits such as provident funds.

However, gig workers exhibit characteristics of both employees and independent contractors, and thus do not clearly fit into any rigid categorization.

To resolve the issue of categorization, the Ministry of Labour and Employment introduced the Code on Social Security, 2020, which brings gig workers within the ambit of labor laws for the first time.

What is the proposed law of Code on Social Security, 2020?

Under section 2(35) of the Code on Social Security, 2020, a ‘gig worker’ is defined as ‘a person who performs work in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship’.

The Code guides the central and state governments to frame suitable social security schemes for gig workers on matters relating to health and maternity benefits, provident funds and accident benefits among others.

The Code also mandates the compulsory registration of all gig workers and platform workers to avail themselves of the benefits under these schemes.

What are some of the concerns with the proposed law?

Gig work finds reference only in the Code on Social Security out of the four new labour codes proposed. This keeps gig workers excluded from benefits and protections offered by other Codes such as minimum wage, occupational safety etc.

They also cannot create legally recognised unions and remain excluded from accessing the redressal mechanism under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

Gig workers do not have the right to collective bargaining which is a fundamental principle of modern labour law.

Moreover, despite receiving the assent of the President, the Labour Codes are still awaiting implementation due to the delay in framing of rules by the States.

What has been the stand of the court on the issue of gig workers?

A PIL was filed in the Supreme Court that demanded gig workers be declared as ‘unorganised workers’.

Thus, allowing them to come under the purview of the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 (UWSS Act) and be provided with statutory protection in the form of social security benefits.

The petitioner argued that the exclusion of ‘wage workers’ under Sections 2(m) and 2(n) of the UWSS Act is violating their fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution and denying social benefits amounts to exploitation through forced labour, within the meaning of Article 23.

The Supreme Court sought response from the Centre regarding the issue in December 2021. However, the Centre has not yet responded.

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