How Swiggy threatened to “suspend” protesting Delhi workers after second pay cut in seven months

27 August 2020
The All India Gig Workers' Union was formed in August 2020, to help workers in the gig economy as the novel coronavirus pandemic takes a heavy toll on the economy across sectors. On 9 August, Swiggy, the food delivery app, slashed payments to delivery executives across four cities, including Delhi. For the workers in Delhi, this was the second roll-back in seven months. The AIGWU has helped the app’s workers in Delhi to mobilise and protest, and spread awareness about their cause.
Courtesy the All India Gig Workers' Union
The All India Gig Workers' Union was formed in August 2020, to help workers in the gig economy as the novel coronavirus pandemic takes a heavy toll on the economy across sectors. On 9 August, Swiggy, the food delivery app, slashed payments to delivery executives across four cities, including Delhi. For the workers in Delhi, this was the second roll-back in seven months. The AIGWU has helped the app’s workers in Delhi to mobilise and protest, and spread awareness about their cause.
Courtesy the All India Gig Workers' Union

On 9 August, Swiggy, an online food-ordering and delivery platform, issued an internal communiqué that announced a pay cut for its delivery executives across at least four cities—Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. Apart from the fact that the pay cut came in the middle of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has led to severe economic distress across all sectors, for the workers in Delhi, this was the second roll-back by the food-delivery aggregator this year. The first pay cut for Swiggy’s Delhi workers had been implemented around the third week of February. Within days of the August announcement, Swiggy’s delivery personnel in the four cities rose in protest, revealing an outburst of collective frustration. As the delivery personnel tried to strike to object to the pay cuts and planned to refuse work, the platform resorted to pre-emptive threats of lay-offs.

The company’s first round of pay cuts in Delhi, too, had sparked protests and a two-day strike. According to the workers I spoke to, this strike had fizzled out once Swiggy started suspending IDs of workers who were trying to mobilise and organise the strike. 

A few days after the internal communiqué that announced the August pay cut, the platform threatened to “suspend their IDs” if workers strike and refuse to take deliveries. I have screenshots of the app’s internal communication platform for delivery executives which displayed a message that read, “Whichever DE does not complete minimum of two shifts in the next three days (14th to 16th August), we will assume that they are not interested in working with us, and we will suspend their IDs.”

Suspending IDs is Swiggy’s version of firing workers. The company provides no clarity, however, on whether the suspensions are temporary or permanent. According to a report by the website The News Minute, the company has a precedence of suspending IDs of workers who participate in strikes against the company—in June 2019, workers in Kochi were forced to resign for striking against a pay cut. As per the report, Swiggy suspended the IDs of striking workers and refused to clear their dues unless they resigned.

Nishant Kauntia is a writer and freelance journalist based in Delhi.

Keywords: Swiggy All India Gig Workers' Union coronavirus lockdown
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