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That Is Not A Livelihood – That Is Helplessness”: Field notes from the Fraazo Delivery Workers Strike in Noida, Greater Noida, and Ghaziabad

Posted by Rikta Krishnaswamy at Apr 24, 2024 02:05 AM |
In this essay, Rikta Krishnaswamy of the All India Gig Workers’ Union (AIGWU) narrates her experiences of organising and supporting delivery workers’ collective action against Fraazo (a now-defunct platform for produce and grocery delivery). Her essay sheds light on the challenges workers face in organising for better conditions of work. She describes how platforms hide behind legal smokescreens and threats of police action to shirk their responsibility as employers. To make matters worse, obscure employment terms and work management systems make it harder for workers to seek redress from the government through labour dispute resolution processes. The essay is illustrative of how digital platforms have exploited and violated freedoms of the gig workers they employ, while facing no accountability. For this to change, gig workers have to be guaranteed employment rights along with collective rights to their data.

We have observed that over time, Indian gig workers across platforms almost certainly face a decrease in overall wages, an increase in working hours, and ever-worsening working conditions. The rhetoric of ‘large-scale employment’ is a false one, as corporates do not consider the gig workers as employees and the workers do not come under the aegis of the country’s labour laws. But the gig workers on these platforms don’t share the corporate and government view at all.

Unlike the capital city of Delhi, the suburbs of Noida, Greater Noida, and Ghaziabad have fewer opportunities even for gig work. Delivery workers across platforms regularly face theft and petty crimes, especially during late-night deliveries. Housing societies prevent them from taking their bikes to customers’ apartments and, in some cases, deny them access to building lifts to carry out deliveries. Despite its dehumanising nature, gig work provides some means of survival in this epoch of rampant unemployment.

On 30 May 2022, striking delivery workers in Noida, Greater Noida, and Ghaziabad—all of whom work for an app-based, fresh produce and grocery delivery platform called Fraazo —approached the All India Gig Workers’ Union (AIGWU). Many of these delivery workers, who are usually referred to as ‘partners’, had lost jobs at banks, data or telecom companies, and call centres during the pandemic, and had joined Fraazo after it started operations in December 2021. They were initially paid a daily wage, called a minimum guarantee (MG) payout, of INR 500 for a 10-hour work shift during which they delivered vegetables, fruits, and groceries to residences near them. Alongwith the MG payout that was disbursed weekly into their accounts, they were also given a petrol surcharge of four rupees for every kilometre they travelled.

The workers told us that on 28 May 2022, the Fraazo head office in Mumbai decided to replace their daily MG payout with a piece-rate payout of INR 45 per delivery. At a time of sky-rocketing fuel prices and inflation, the company decided to remove the petrol surcharge for delivery distances of less than five kilometres (which constitute a bulk of the orders that these delivery workers service). The delivery workers were apprised of these changes the next day by the Fraazo Store Managers, with a promise that the new piece-rate system would bring in more earnings.

The delivery workers rejected this new system outright and demanded that Fraazo restore the earlier payout system with an assurance that in the future, Fraazo will take the consent of the workers before introducing any drastic changes to their service conditions. In addition, they demanded that all delivery riders be provided with accident insurance and paid leaves.  

The workers did not view themselves as merely freelance delivery partners. When the store’s operations had just begun, the company faced a lot of challenges in ensuring consistent service. Some delivery partners would help with unloading and sorting produce at the store during or after their work shifts. Even after operations stabilised, many worked overtime (with no pay) at the behest of the store managers to ensure that deliveries were completed to the customer’s satisfaction. A significant portion of deliveries involved carrying 10 kilos of produce to customers’ homes. Delivery workers were entrusted to escalate and resolve complaints as well. Fraazo’s customers complained that the store managers were lackadaisical when it came to providing appropriate support and often called the delivery workers directly to get items replaced.

Anywhere between 25–40 workers were tied to a store, according to the size of the operations, and helped Fraazo set up and smoothly run its services across its various stores in Noida, Greater Noida, and Ghaziabad in the first half of 2022. They usually worked through the week, had no paid sick leaves, and were allowed to take just one unpaid day off during a work week (they often incurred penalties if they took more than one leave). While there were problems with their previous time-wage system, they were dead against the new system of a piece-rate payout. The latter meant that their employer could potentially hire hundreds of workers for a store with no minimum guarantee pay, thereby annihilating the earnings of all the workers.

Click to download the full essay


Author: Rikta Krishnaswamy

Images: All India Gig Workers’ Union (AIGWU)

Design: Annushka Jaliwala

Copy edit: The Clean Copy

About the All India Gig Workers’ Union

The All India Gig Workers’ Union (AIGWU) is a registered trade union for all food delivery, logistics, and service workers that work on any app-based platforms in India.

Contact: [email protected]

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