From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Provision in labour codes
Mains level : Paper 2- Provisions for gig workers and platform workers in the labour codes
The article examines the provision made for the platform workers and the gig workers in the labour codes passed by the Parliament recently and explains the issues with it.
- The three new labour codes passed by Parliament recently acknowledge platform and gig workers as new occupational categories in the making.
- The specific issues of working in factories, the duration of time needed on a factory floor, and associated issues are recognised as the parameters for defining an ideal worker.
- The Code on Wages, 2019, tries to expand this idea by using ‘wages’ as the primary definition of who an ‘employee’ is.
- Yet, the terms ‘gig worker’, ‘platform worker’ and ‘gig economy’ not defined with in connection with their wages.
- The new Code on Social Security allows a platform worker to be defined by their vulnerability — not their labour, nor the vulnerabilities of platform work.
Issues with the code
- Since the laws are prescriptive, what is written within them creates the limits to what rights can be demanded, and how these rights can be demanded.
- Platform delivery people can claim benefits, but not labour rights.
- This distinction makes them beneficiaries of State programmes.
- This does not allow them to go to court to demand better and stable pay, or regulate the algorithms that assign the tasks.
- This also means that the government or courts cannot pull up platform companies for lapses[ ex. choice of pay, work hours etc].
Benefits with no guarantee
- In the Code on Social Security, 2020, platform workers are now eligible for benefits like maternity benefits, life and disability cover, old age protection, provident fund, employment injury benefits, and so on.
- None of these are secure benefits.
- This means that from time to time, the Central government can formulate welfare schemes that cover these aspects of personal and work security, but they are not guaranteed.
- Actualising these benefits will depend on the political will at the Central and State government-levels and how unions elicit political support.
- The language in the Code is open enough to imply that platform companies can be called upon to contribute either solely or with the government.
Consider the question “What are the provisions for gig workers and platform workers in the new labour code? What are the issues with the provision?”
The ‘platform worker’ identity has the potential to grow in power and scope, but it will be mediated by politicians, election years, rates of under-employment, and large, investment- heavy technology companies that are notorious for not complying with local laws.