In a first for the state, Chief Minister MK Stalin, in his Independence Day address on Tuesday, announced that the government would form a welfare board for gig workers.
“The lives of these employees who work against the clock are important,” Stalin said while speaking at Fort St.George. Following the footsteps of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu will become the second state in India to form a welfare board for gig workers.
“In metropolitan cities like Chennai and other towns, vehicles belonging to companies like Ola, Uber, Swiggy, Zomato, etc are working with a motto to offer quick service to people. To safeguard their overall welfare, a separate welfare board will be set up,” Stalin said.
Welcoming the announcement, K Murali Raja, a bike taxi driver with Uber, told TNIE, “The rates we get for rides are not commensurate with our expenses. Even for incentives, we have to work without taking a day’s leave. Almost 40% of our earnings goes towards fuel expenses. To address this, we need standard rates that factor in fuel and vehicle maintenance expenses, work hours and leave. We are not able to take any loans from banks citing our job. If the welfare board is able to fulfil all these, it will truly be of great help to us.”
A welfare board is a welcome first step, but a lot needs to be done from there, said labour activist T Venkat. “Till date, gig workers are an invisible population. The board will collect data and ensure transparency in the system. Mandatory insurance and linkages to social security schemes for workers should be ensured through the board. Minimum wage and regularised employment are the larger goals. A separate cess has to be collected for delivery transactions,” he added.
Tamil Nadu Food Delivery Workers Association affiliated with CITU also welcomed the announcement. Association’s general secretary S Ramakrishnan told TNIE, “A committee was earlier formed by the labour department to deliberate on a welfare board for gig workers. We pressed on various aspects at the meetings. After years of struggle, we were able to register an association for gig workers only in 2022. The announcement on a board has come now.”
Following the announcement, a proposal will be sent to the State Labour Advisory Board. Gig workers and aggregators are often caught in a dispute over issues like proper wages, sudden revision in fares, etc. In May, gig workers struck work for a day in Chennai demanding better pay and working conditions. Gig workers activists and workers are pinning their hopes on the board to resolve their issues.
“Gig workers had to go on strike every time to draw attention to their plight. They don’t know whom to contact to register a complaint. A redressal mechanism should be ensured by the board,” Ramakrishnan added.
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