Asia’s largest home services provider sues women workers over protests

Urban Company’s female gig workers are protesting changes they say will leave them worse off

Arpan Rai
Thursday 23 December 2021 13:54
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<p>Nearly 50 women began protests against their employer Urban Company  on Monday </p>

Nearly 50 women began protests against their employer Urban Company on Monday

A home and beauty care services provider in India is suing its own workforce for protesting against policy changes that the company’s mainly female gig workers claim will hurt their income.

Urban Company filed a civil lawsuit at a district court in Gurugram in India’s national capital region on Tuesday seeking to put an end to protests that had sparked outside its headquarters that are also in Gurugram.

The company, which is valued at $2.8bn (£2.1bn) and is said to be Asia’s largest home services provider, has demanded an injunction to stop the protests, which it said were illegal. It also asked for its office premises to be vacated of the protesting workers.

Urban Company said in its suit that the workers should be barred from holding any kind of demonstration “on or near the office premises,” according to several reports.

The protests by the company’s workers, referred to as “partners” by the organisation, have been led primarily by women.

The protests started on Monday when nearly 50 women employees demanded it strike down recent changes that were made in the beauty category of the company’s app and website.

Workers said the new changes would sign them up to a “minimum guarantee plan” that will restrict their freedom and income.

Under the plan, workers will have to complete a minimum 40 jobs per month. If a worker is unable to complete this minimum number, they will end up losing a substantial amount of their income.

“If I am not able to [take up those many jobs], I will lose my upfront fee of Rs 3,000 ($40 or £30) and Rs 2,000 ($27 or £20), depending on what I pick,” one of the protesting women, who wished to remain anonymous, told Indian news website Scroll.in.

She said this would lead to a huge problem for the workers. “Why should we have to do a fixed number of jobs for the company when we are freelancing?” she asked.

Another concern was classifying the workers under a new category called “Flexi” that aims to filter them based on quick response rates.

Those falling in this category would not be able to work for a major chunk of the week, from Monday to Thursday.

Employees who refuse to participate in the company’s minimum guarantee plan would also be clubbed under the “Flexi” grouping.

Workers are also upset with the company’s decision to make them bear the costs of a 10 per cent discount provided to customers, something they feel should be borne by the firm instead.

The Independent has reached out to Urban Company through email over the changes of its policies and the protests.

This is not the first time Urban Company’s workforce has staged a public protest against its policies, even as the country’s gig economy system has come under increased scrutiny for its unfair treatment of thousands of workers.

In October this year, 100 gig workers had demonstrated against Urban Company, demanding an increase in pay, the provision of safer working conditions and social security benefits.

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