Do companies try to hide the internal exploitation of their workforce with a veneer of woke concern in their external messaging? A recent survey would suggest that they do.
Zomato and Swiggy, who in recent times have tried to brand themselves as woke, have emerged as the companies that treat their contract workforce the worst in India. As per the Fairwork India Ratings 2020, both Zomato and Swiggy received the lowest possible score of 1 out of 10 on how they treat their delivery partners. Indian companies were rated on five parameters including Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation.
As per the Fairwork ratings, Urban Company treated its gig workers the best, with a rating of 8/10. It was followed by Flipkart (7/10), Dunzo (4/10) and Amazon (2/10). Swiggy and Zomato fared the worst, with scores of (1/10) each. The report said that Zomato and Swiggy didn’t have proper channels for workers to communicate with management, had insurance plans which worked only on hospitalizations, and arbitrarily blocked the IDs of delivery partners if they tried to complain.
“In the meeting 3 or 4 months ago, they told us that if your bike
is punctured, take a rental bike and finish the delivery first. If you meet with an accident, first finish the delivery and then go wherever you
have to go,” the report quoted a Zomato rider as saying.
To be made to first deliver an order when you’ve met with an accident sounds inhuman, but, interestingly, both Swiggy and Zomato have tried to push woke agendas through their communications in recent times. Zomato had claimed that “Food doesn’t have a religion. It is a religion,” when a customer had requested for the delivery boy to be Hindu because he was practicing Shrawan. People had then pointed out that Zomato has labels for Halal meat, which is equally discriminatory: meat is certified Halal only if it’s cut by a practicing Muslim, which means that ordering Halal meat is tantamount to ordering meat that has only been cut by a Muslim. More recently, Zomato had replied to a Swara Bhasker tweet in which she’d urged the company to stop advertising on Republic TV because it “promotes hate.”
Swiggy, too, has hopped on the woke bandwagon. Just this month, a Congress-supporting anonymous user had tweeted a joke in which bhakts, which is what leftists pejoratively call supporters of PM Modi, were wondering why they needed farmers for food, when they could simply order it off Swiggy. “We can’t refund an education,” Swiggy had replied to the tweet, which had prompted calls from some users to boycott the platform. It had later emerged that the agency which handles Swiggy’s social media had been a part of a Rs. 500 crore contract to build up Rahul Gandhi’s image in 2014.
But even as Zomato and Swiggy talk about how “food is a religion”, and the education of “bhakts”, they seem to simultaneously be be quietly exploiting their most vulnerable workers. These companies’ delivery partners are powerless against them: Zomato and Swiggy’s delivery agents aren’t full-time employees, and are thus deprived of many of the benefits that the companies’ full-time employees enjoy. And even as both Zomato and Swiggy have been ranked the worst in India when it comes to giving these workers their rights, they appear to be compensating by simultaneously projecting an image of being virtuous do-gooders on social media.