The High Court of Delhi on Monday sought a response from cab aggregators Uber and Ola on whether their drivers would fall under the category of employees/workmen so as to be eligible for receiving benefits under labour laws. Notice was also issued to the Centre and the Delhi Government. The matter will now be heard on August 10.
The notice was issued by Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva on a Petition filed by the Delhi Commercial Driver Union seeking setting up of a committee to examine if these drivers should be classified as their employees, and thereby monitor the implementation of various labour laws. This committee would also look into their grievances and make appropriate recommendations in order to improve their pay, working conditions, and receipt of benefits such as compensation in cases of accidents or deaths. The recommendations of this committee have been prayed to be issued as guidelines to be adhered to by Ola and Uber.
The Petition claims to represent over one driver drivers operating in the National Capital Territory, and alleges that the drivers are being subjected to deplorable working and pay conditions, due to “arbitrary deductions in their payments without even giving them a chance to respond”. It goes on to enumerate various grievances of the drivers which include, arbitrary deduction in payments on vague and unsubstantiated grounds, no freedom to cancel bookings, no indemnity scheme for the driver in case the booking is obtained by fraud, changes in fares on a daily basis without prior notice, and lack of grievance redressal mechanism.
It further contends that “giving high wage initially in order to capture market share and then subsequently reduced it so that a person cannot even pay his debts is violation of principles enshrined in Articles 39, 42 and 43 of our Constitution.(sic)”
The Petition thereafter avers that the drivers fall under the definition of a “workman” under Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and hence, a relationship of employer and employee exists between them and the cab aggregators. It further contends that since Ola and Uber are employers under the meaning of Section 9A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, they must give a notice to their workmen before effecting any change in the conditions of service applicable to them.
To substantiate its contentions, the Petition places reliance on several recent judgments in the US and the UK which have held such drivers to be employees of Uber, and contends, “Formation of committee to look into their grievances will hopefully end the misery, suffering and helplessness of these victims of most inhuman exploitation. It will be possible to improve the life conditions of these drivers and ensure social justice to them so that they may be able to breathe the fresh air of social and economic freedom.”
Read the Petition here.