Home services provider Urban Company has filed a lawsuit against women ‘partners’ working with the platform, seeking directions to the workers, their family members and other associates to cease their ‘illegal’ protest and vacate the company’s office, main entrance and parking lot.
The company has sought an injunction from the court directing police to make arrangements and disburse the protesters.
Since Monday morning, over 50 women ‘partners’ from the company’s spa and salon verticals, have been camping outside its office protesting against proposed policy changes in the app, claiming it would impact their earnings. They arranged quilts and slept on mattresses outside the company gate on Monday night, alleging that the company shut its main gate and did not allow access to washrooms.
Urban Company did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment. In the suit, the plaintiff, UrbanClap Technologies, has sought a permanent prohibitory injunction restraining these people from holding any “demonstration, dharna, rally, gherao, peace march, shouting slogans, entering or assembling on or near the office premises..,”
In October, 100 ‘partners’ associated with the company had staged a protest demanding better pay, safer working conditions, and social security benefits.
A beautician, who has been named in the suit, said, “The company is implementing a new subscription system where workers have to pay an upfront fee of Rs 3,000 (for prime) and Rs 2,000 (for classic) per month under a ‘minimum guarantee plan’. The plan requires us to plan our monthly work calendar and take a minimum number of jobs. So, if I don’t do 40 jobs, I will lose Rs 3,000. This takes away our flexibility. On one hand, the company doesn’t call us its employees, we are ‘partners’ who are freelancing. We do not have benefits like in other jobs. On the other hand, they are mandating a specific number of jobs in a month and a fee to secure that.”
They said the company had introduced a new category, Flexi, which seeks to penalise workers for refusal to participate in the subscription system or for low response rates. “Under this category, we can only work three days a week (Friday to Sunday),” said a beautician, who had come from Noida. The third demand, they said, relates to ‘partners’ being asked to provide customers with a discount of 10 per cent from their earnings.
The women said no one from the company’s management had reached out to them. In October, the company had slashed its commission cap and announced initiatives for worker safety.
In a statement, the All India Gig Workers’ Union said, “There is an immediate need to classify gig workers as employees so they may benefit from any legal infrastructure that would otherwise fail to protect them as a result of their employment.”