Online food delivery agents in Kerala are yet again on the warpath over arbitrary changes in their incentive payments, which have drastically reduced their daily earnings.
The Zomato delivery agents in Thiruvananthapuram have announced an indefinite strike from Tuesday, which they say is a precursor to similar action in other cities, where delivery agents are facing a similar plight. Some delivery agents of Swiggy, another major online food delivery aggregator, are also joining them in solidarity, as they have also been experiencing a sharp drop in incentives.
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Memorandum to CM
Around 2 lakh youths as well as middle-aged persons in the State are employed either full-time or part-time with various food delivery aggregators. A group of delivery agents under the aegis of the Online Delivery Workers’ Union had submitted various demands to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan earlier this month, demanding that the government intervene to address their concerns. According to the delivery agents, after the implementation of a new gig system recently, they earn only around ₹500-₹600 daily after working 12-14 hours instead of the ₹1,000 or above they used to get earlier.
“Earlier we used to get up to ₹30 for delivering an order within 5 km. Now, Zomato does not have a proper rate card. So, the rates are arbitrary and can vary from day to day. Even if we run nonstop from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., clocking around 200 km, we will be able to make only around ₹500, after fuel costs. The frequent vehicle maintenance charges are an additional burden. We have no company official to speak to, nor any office to raise our issues. The three team leaders deployed for the entire city cannot do much,” says Ratheesh (name changed), a delivery agent.
According to the agents, when there are too many orders, the companies reroute the orders to third party applications, including Shadowfax and Loadshare. Some of the agents who have also signed up on these third party applications say that they have a proper rate card and provide better rates than the parent company.
The demands they have put forward include daily incentives to ensure minimum guaranteed pay for the delivery agents as well as the reinstatement of the old system of paying an additional ₹20-25 for delivering during rain. The company should have a rate card in the mobile application clearly specifying the rates for pickup and drop. The waiting charge of ₹1 for every extra minute of waiting at restaurants for pickup should be reinstated. The unnecessary fines being imposed on riders and the practice of collecting money for uniforms and bags should be done away with. The wage scale should be changed to ensure that those working 10-12 hours get ₹1,800.
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Meanwhile, the company recently brought in new terms and conditions, which the agents interpret as a scare tactic to stop the strike. The agents cannot accept orders unless they agree to the conditions, which is pushed into their mobile application. According to the new conditions, the delivery agents can be terminated for “deterring other delivery partners from carrying out delivery services or indulging in acts such as strikes”. Another line says that “Zomato may terminate the agreement and deny delivery partners access to the Zomato platform at any time without a reason for such termination”. The agents have also demanded the removal of these clauses.
No company official was reachable for comments.
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