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    Urban Company’s Women Gig Workers Protest Against Auto Assignment of Jobs

    Hundreds of women gig and platform workers, mostly migrants from North-East India, stormed the Urban Company’s Bengaluru headquarters to protest ‘auto’ job assignment feature on the platform. The protest was led by the Gig and Platform Services Workers Union (GIPSWU) and, as per a recent tweet by the Telangana gig workers union, is likely to spread to Hyderabad as well.

    New terms and conditions introduce auto pilot mode:
    As per a press release viewed by MediaNama, the new terms and conditions of the company introduces an ‘auto pilot mode’ that takes away the liberty of gig workers to select work assignments. The Union termed the terms and conditions as “horrific” and said the same puts many workers “under slavery like situations.”

    “Companies say they are technology platforms but how come new features of app assign jobs on ‘Auto pilot’ mode and we don’t have any consent on that?” said GIPSWU leader Tamil Selvi.

    Similarly, another GIPSWU leader, Manisha from Assam, said that the auto assigning job feature takes away women’s liberty, as they may not be able to work at times due to illness or family-related emergencies. “These new features don’t understand human situations. If we don’t show up for the jobs, we are being arbitrarily terminated/our work-ID get blocked,” she said.

    MediaNama has written to the company asking about the auto pilot feature introduced recently. This copy will be updated once the response comes.

    Why it matters

    A big part of why gig work is appealing to people is due to the autonomy it offers in terms of taking on workload and deciding when a person wants to do the gig work. This flexibility was particularly appealing for women to enter the workforce. By automating the assignment of work, the Urban company has taken away workers’ choice and consent and, as GIPSWU’s national spokesperson Chandan Kumar has phrased it, “taken the working class to the ear of 18th century slavery.” At the very least, the terms and conditions put gig workers’ demand for regularization into perspective. Should the automation of work also mean the ‘partners’ will now be termed ‘employees’ on paper as well?

    Urban Company’s previous tryst with gig workers

    Almost a year ago, in July 2023, Telangana’s women gig workers accused Urban Company of wage theft, illegal terminations, and discriminatory labour practices. Workers wrote a letter to E. Gangadhar, State Additional Commissioner of Labor Department, and D. Srinivasulu, Union Deputy Chief Labor Commissioner’s Office wherein they said that despite company promises of workers’ control over work, post-joining workers are given long working hours without any consultation. Then too, MediaNama had written to the company asking about the commission fee structure, role of customer rating in determining wages, worker complaints and worker grievances. However, the company did not respond.  In 2021 as well, members of the All India Gig Workers Union (AIGWU) talked about ‘ill-treatment and exploitation’ by the company.

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    The post Urban Company’s Women Gig Workers Protest Against Auto Assignment of Jobs appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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