With the emergence of the ‘gig economy, gig workers, especially during the pandemic, have found themselves increasingly at crossroads with the economic impacts of this new working model.
Yesterday, on the 20th December, 2021, the Urban Company headquarters in Gurgaon faced demonstrations relating to proposed policy changes in the UC Partners’ app for the beauty category. These changes have a direct and adverse impact on the beauticians’ ability to bring their earnings on the digital platform to the standard of a living wage.
Urban Company (UC) women workers are protesting in front of the Urban Company office in Gurgaon against the arbitrary categorisations, and new policies of subscriptions and discounts that the workers have to pay from their own pockets. They have stayed overnight and resolved to not leave unless the changes are withdrawn.
Delhi NCR Urban Company Partners from the Beauty Segment are engaged in an all night strike outside the UC Head Office in Gurgaon, following failed negotiations with the leadership on worker concerns around proposed changes to the platform that will affect worker earnings. pic.twitter.com/clLOy3BW3n
— AIGWU – All India Gig Workers Union (@aigwu_union) December 20, 2021
Three important changes, among others, have been highlighted by the workers as changes will reduce their ability to make a living wage. Specifically,
1. Workers have been notified of changes that amount to them having to plan their monthly calendar of work and paying an upfront subscription fee to secure this work plan. Urban Company Partners demand that UC should NOT implement this subscription system of Rs. 3000 (for prime workers) and Rs. 2000 (for classic workers) per month under the garb of ‘Minimum Guarantee (MG) Plan, with the supposed aim of increasing customer and partner satisfaction.
Women workers from @urbancompany_UC have decided to continue their strike till the mangement goes back on the proposed changes to the platform.
There are several pregnant women in the group as well who refuse to leave till their demands are met. pic.twitter.com/4rIXNSQv0E
— AIGWU – All India Gig Workers Union (@aigwu_union) December 21, 2021
2. A new categorisation system – namely “Flexi” – has been introduced which seeks to penalise workers for their refusal to participate in the subscription system mentioned above, or for low response rates’. UC partners in this category are denied work from Monday to Thursday. This is part of a continuing bid to coerce workers and penalise low response rates through access control.
3. Well performing UC Partners (Luxe/ Gold Plus & Silver Plus) have been asked to provide customers with discounts to the tune of 10% of their earnings’ pitting customer interests directly against partner interests, particularly in the case of those who have put in the effort to build up a strong work history for the company through successful delivery of services. AIGWU condemns this unfair treatment of the best performers. Companies may ensure competitiveness but not at the cost of the workers’ wages.
After a breakdown of negotiations between Urban Company Partners and the management yesterday, the women workers spent the night in the biting cold winter protesting outside the company HQ.
The All India Gig Workers Union expresses support with the strike women. There is an immediate need to classify gig workers as employees so that they may benefit from any legal infrastructure that would otherwise fail to protect them as a result of their employment status.
AIGWU stands with the workers when they protest the introduction of a “pay to work” scheme which is being introduced under the cover of a minimum guarantee of work.
The Urban Company CEO Abhiraj Bhal continues to sermonise at webinars on how much Urban Company values its partners. We hope the company’s stakeholders put their money where their mouth is and ensure their partners have their just demands met with due urgency.