Delivery pangs: Swiggy strike hits hard

Strike by Swiggy delivery executives rages on as protesters accuse the company of derailing talks, while company officials blame violence for the stalemate 

Published: 29th November 2022 06:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th November 2022 06:32 AM   |  A+A-

A protester in Kochi | FILE PIC

Express News Service

KOCHI: Swiggy strike’ has been in the news over the past two weeks. While the indefinite strike by delivery executives demanding higher remuneration rages on in Kochi, the restive truce in Thiruvananthapuram looks set to implode.  

TNIE speaks to stakeholders to get to the bottom of the issue.  

Arun George, an LLB graduate who works as a part-time delivery executive in Kochi, says a hike in base charges has been a longstanding demand. However, he adds, the issue flared up about two months ago, when Swiggy signed up with third-party app-based agencies (chiefly Shadowfax) for deliveries. 
“These agencies would supply delivery executives during peak hours, and deny us from reaching targets for incentives,” says Arun. 

“For every four kilometres, one earns a basic pay of Rs 20. One gets an incentive of Rs 205 on accruing basic pay of Rs 550. I haven’t been able to reach the target for a single day since October. As I cross Rs 540, Swiggy stops assigning me orders. This has become a regular occurrence for most of us.” Arun also alleges that a ‘touch point’ charge of  Rs 5 per customer has been stopped by the company. “There was a time when I could earn up to Rs 40,000 a month,” he says. “However, over the past two months, that has dwindled, as incentives have stopped.” 

Half of the earnings go towards fuel and vehicle maintenance, says Arun. “We get Rs 20 base charge for the first 4km and Rs 6 for every extra kilometre. This is applicable only on the delivery trip; the return to our assigned service zone for the next order is not included after crossing the zone limit. 

“Swiggy gives fuel allowance of only Rs 39 to Rs 79, based on the number of deliveries. A day we have to ride at least 100km. How can we survive on such meagre earnings? The situation was far better some months ago; we were comfortable.”

Delivery executive Vipin Vincent, who is at the forefront of the strike backed by AITUC, says the strike started with a demand to hike the basic pay to Rs 35 for every 2.5km. “In the last meeting with the District Labour Commissioner, we came down to Rs 28,” he adds. “However, Swiggy is sticking to Rs 23 per 4km under the ‘My Shift’ system.”

The My Shift system, he says, is another point of contention. “In this system, we have to pick a delivery time slot and can work only during that period,” says Vipin. “The delivery partners of Zomato are working under this system, and are unsatisfied. Many of us have been unable to achieve even Rs 400 after working from 7am to 1am since October.” 

Vipin alleges that Swiggy officials failed to offer convincing reasons for the sudden dip in delivery assignments. Subsequently, the delivery partners, backed by AITUC, filed a memorandum of their demands such as a basic pay hike, and incentives. Similar demands were raised for Instamart orders, too.

Food delivery executives waiting at Bakery Junction in Thiruvananthapuram
to pick up orders | file pic

“In the case of Instamart, the payment is Rs 20 base charge plus Rs 10 for every extra kilometre,” explains Vipin. “However, the total order may even go over 40kg. For instance, an order may include 10kg of rice and four 5L water cans. It would be a struggle to carry these on a motorcycle, load and unload, and deliver to the consumer’s doorstep. Yet, there is no extra incentive for such bulky orders.”  

Vipin accuses Swiggy officials of being stubborn. “A meeting was planned for Monday, but Swiggy officials failed to turn up,” he alleges. “There was a minor incident after the last meeting a few delivery boys, who were not associated with us, created a ruckus. So, this time, we had decided only a couple of us would participate in the meeting to maintain decorum. However, the meeting was cancelled.” A Swiggy official, however, maintains that the company was not aware of any meeting called on Monday. 

‘Violence may break out’
Vipin says he fears violence breaking out between the protesters and those opting to work. “It’s been two weeks since we have been out of earnings,” he says. “People are getting frustrated.” He notes that four cases have already been registered against some delivery executives over alleged incidents of violence. “This may become a greater issue in the coming days and could derail the strike. That seems to be the management’s aim,” says Vipin.

So far, the Palarivattom Police Station has registered two cases against protesters who obstructed delivery executives who resumed work. Last week, a delivery executive named Santhini allegedly attacked her friend and colleague Rekha, who had obstructed her from proceeding to work. 

Santhini was heckled when she arrived at a restaurant to collect a food package. Rekha insisted that Santhini join the protesters. When she declined, Rekha grabbed the keys to Santhini’s scooter. 
An incensed Santhini allegedly threatened Rekha with a sickle kept in her vehicle.  

Vipin says Rekha and Santhini were longtime friends. “See, everyone is frustrated. As frustration mounts, the situation will go out of control. We need to resolve this deadlock fast,” he says.

Swiggy blames attack on staff
Responding to TNIE’s queries, a Swiggy spokesperson emailed a statement that blamed violent incidents for the stalemate. “Swiggy attempts to ensure continued operations in Kerala, which not only brings convenience to users but also generates an earning opportunity for delivery executives.... 

“In this context, we participated in a discussion convened at the Labour Commissioner’s office in Trivandrum in October. Post this meeting, a three-month agreement was signed on the premise that there will be no acts of violence and intimidation during this period,” reads the statement. 

“Unfortunately, a few individuals have shown little regard for this agreement by consistently indulging in and instigating violence and disruption, coercively stopping and intimidating those who want to work. 

“Not just fellow delivery executives, but even Swiggy’s staff was threatened and assaulted in Kochi. Despite this violence, Swiggy continues to uphold the conditions of the agreement and is working closely with authorities to ensure that our services in the impacted cities in Kerala are fully operational soon.” 

Speaking over the phone from Thiruvananthapuram, Joint Labour Commissioner (Kochi region ) P R Sankar says the department is “committed to resolving the issue”.  “We will do our best in helping the company and protesters reach a compromise,” he adds.

Zomato delivery partners threaten stir
Zomato delivery executives in Kochi recently organised a one-day warning strike, and submitted a memorandum demanding an increase in surcharges and a system for providing aid in case of road accidents. “Zomato’s My Shift system has led to disgruntlement,” says delivery executive Benedict Joseph, 39. “With this system in place, we can never reach incentive targets. Also, due to the tie-up with third-party agencies, our individual order volumes have drastically reduced.”   Zomato delivery executives demand a “transparent gig system” with a revised pay system and the removal of pay variance between old and new recruits. Currently, several Swiggy users have migrated to Zomato, and there has been a multifold increase in orders.


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