Hyderabad: Thakur Deepak Singh, a 32-year-old food delivery executive with Swiggy from Secunderabad, used to earn Rs. 9,000 per week before the lockdown. Now, he earns half the amount. "We are working past our shift timings but our incentives have been reduced from Rs. 500- 600 per day to Rs. 200-300," he said. The increasing fuel prices are only adding to his woes.

Like Deepak, there are thousands of delivery executives in Hyderabad who are struggling to make ends meet besides keeping themselves safe during these tough times. Many of them complain about reduced delivery incentives, reduced commission, and reduced income. Some of them are being asked to deliver to places more than 25 km away with reduced incentives and no surge-price charges. The incentive, which was around Rs. 50 per delivery, has also been reduced to Rs. 25.

According to the latest Swiggy Daily incentives structure, the delivery executives can make Rs. 150 extra if they earn Rs. 375 and they can earn Rs. 250 extra if they earn Rs. 750 a day. But to earn these incentives, a delivery executive must put in eight hours of work and only one rejected order will be allowed.

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"Earlier, we used to deliver only within the allocated radius but now we are being asked to travel to areas which are more than 25-30 km from our allocated areas, and still, we are being paid less than before. We are promised Rs. 150 incentive if we earn Rs. 375 every day but we are not being paid the money," Deepak said.

Another delivery executive said, "The number of food delivery orders has reduced but now we are delivering grocery items which are heavier than food packets. We deliver the items but we are not even paid half of what we used to earn before the lockdown. All the delivery executives are struggling financially during the lockdown as the majority of the food delivery apps are not paying like before. These food delivery apps are also providing offers to customers when the businesses are already suffering losses."

According to the delivery executives, these companies are hiring new delivery executives when they are not able to pay their current employees. The Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) has demanded a temporary halt on the hiring of new delivery workers when the companies are unable to provide sufficient work to the existing workers.

Shaik Salauddin, the national general secretary of IFAT, said, "In the past few months, food-based app aggregators have reduced the incentive structure and the per-order earning of delivery workers have gone down as low as Rs. 15. Meanwhile, they continue to charge more than Rs. 15 from the customer as delivery charges in addition to the commission ranging between 20-30 per cent of the order value from the restaurant. The food delivery companies charge a high delivery fee and commission from the customers and restaurants and pay less to its delivery executives due to which the delivery executives are suffering. Food delivery executives are spending more than 12 hours travelling to earn about Rs. 500 and due to an increase in fuel prices they are forced to spend from their pockets. As orders have reduced due to the fear of the corona virus, delivery executives are unable to meet their targets and are unable to get incentives which usually pay for their fuel and maintenance cost."

He further added, "The delivery executives are spending more than 12 hours on the road, risking their lives and earning less than Rs. 400 per day. We demand that the food delivery companies be sensitive to the working conditions of the delivery executives and revise the incentive structure. We also demand an increase in payment considering the reduction in consumer demand and working hours due to time restrictions in view of the lockdown.

The food delivery apps should also ensure the safety of the delivery executives as they are recognised as essential service providers. These companies should provide fresh safety kits to the delivery executives as they can't afford to pay for it themselves."

In response to the protest, Swiggy Spokesperson told Newsmeter, “The hospitality sector has been negatively impacted due to COVID-19 with thousands of restaurants across the country either shut completely or operating at a reduced scale. Given the unprecedented circumstances that we find ourselves in, we are forced to take actions that secure the future of the organisation thereby enabling support to our valued stakeholders - customers, restaurants and delivery partners.

Further added, "Since the beginning of the lockdown, Swiggy has invested a substantial amount of resources to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our valued delivery partners. These investments include payouts as part of the daily guaranteed earnings, additional COVID insurance cover, medical cover for family, essentials care package for partners in non-operational cities and distribution of free masks and sanitizers to all delivery partners on the field. So far, we have tried to delay any changes that might affect the delivery partner earnings, however, with the present impact on food delivery and the projected risk of uncertainty, we are introducing a standardised payout structure for all delivery partners. The new system eliminates any gap based on delivery partner tenure and offers new incentive slabs which enable partners to earn better incentives based on the overall deliveries"

Anusha Puppala

Anusha Puppala is currently working at NewsMeter. She had earlier worked as a reporter with ANI and The News Minute. Previously, she has worked as a Senior Reporter with the Deccan Chronicle Newspaper, covering education beat. She had briefly associated with the national television channel Tiranga TV as a special correspondent. Anusha has extensively written stories on education, traffic, civic-issues, human-Interesting, off-Beat, consumer issues, health and environment. Hailing from Visakhapatnam, Anusha is a social media buff and a passionate foodie. If not reporting, you will always find her travelling.

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