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An Indian gig worker’s struggle with clients who refuse to wear masks and the fear of bad ratings



One reason the Covid-19 crisis has proven to be extremely difficult for many businesses is that customers are worried about their safety—and so are fearful of stepping out. That may be a boon for companies that offer services at home, but for 27-year-old Yasmin Yadav, it has become an added source of worry.

Yadav, who lives in Gurugram, works as a beautician associated with Urban Company, an at-home services provider that was previously known as UrbanClap. Despite the pandemic and the widespread awareness of how the virus spreads, Yadav says that many of her customers simply refuse to follow the guidelines.

“Most of the clients that I have served since the lockdown was lifted refused to wear face masks. Their argument is that they are in their own houses, so they do not need to wear masks. I am always supposed to wear protective gear while serving the clients, but what good are precautions that are only followed at one end?” Yadav told “You cannot argue with these clients. Many of them will spoil our ratings out of spite. For a business that runs on how we are rated by our clients, the situation is very tough.”

Gig economy

Yadav has been working with Urban Company in Gurugram, Haryana for two years now. Before that, she owned her own salon in the city, but shut it soon after she saw that her prospects were better with the internet-based services provider.

Yasmin Yadav.

The pandemic-necessitated lockdown has exposed the vulnerability of relying on a gig platform like this for her livelihood. Any inconvenience to clients, however minor, can result in a number of implications: bad ratings, warnings from the company and compulsory retraining.

“It seems like taking precautions and keeping ourselves safe is entirely our responsibility,” she said. “No action is taken against the clients availing the services even if they mistreat us. One client wanted me to give her a facial without wearing gloves. She asked me to wash my hands two-three times and remove the gloves. I had to try very hard to convince her that I am not allowed to operate as per her wish. Am I expected to risk my life because one client asked me to bend a rule for her?”

‘No work at all’

Yadav used to earn around Rs7,000-Rs 8,000 ($93-$105) per day before the pandemic derailed the business, catering to around five or six requests daily. This has now come down to a couple per day.

“Even after the lockdown has been lifted, there are some days when there is no work at all,” she said. According to her, Urban Company takes a fixed percentage of the earnings of its associates as its fee, which ranges from 5% to 30% of the total earnings from each client.

“To help us during the lockdown, Urban Company rolled out a policy to give us a loan of Rs5,000 when the business was shut,” Yadav said. “For those who choose to take the loan, it is supposed to be repaid within six months of resuming business and will attract no interest. But, how much can you do with Rs5,000 in a city like Gurugram?”

 “What will we do with the money when there is no life?” Her savings before the pandemic put her in a decent position to survive during the lockdown despite no regular earnings, taking care of her rent, the monthly installment for her flat in Gurugram and her LIC insurance. “I was comfortable because I had savings, but many people in my circle were not,” she said. “I am aware that this time is hard on them, especially for the single mothers I know.”

The Urban Company reportedly rolled out a policy to arrange for a doctor’s consultation and to give its associates Rs250 for each day they remained home if unwell.

Even though the nationwide lockdown that lasted for over two months resulted in near-exhaustion of her savings, Yadav still thinks that it should have been extended for a couple of months more. Expressing her fear of working while the pandemic is raging, Yadav said, “What will we do with the money when there is no life?”

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Amazon looks for gig workers to pick up and deliver orders at Whole Foods




Photo (c) Andrei Stanescu – Getty Images

With the gig economy continuing to grow but the COVID-19 pandemic cutting into wages, gig workers looking for work might want to pay Whole Foods a visit. Amazon is now recruiting contract workers to both shop for and deliver groceries for Whole Foods Market customers who order their groceries online.

According to a Bloomberg report, drivers can easily sign up for the Shop and Deliver program by simply reviewing an online tutorial about how Whole Foods products are picked, packed, and handled, as well as scoring a passing grade on a quiz.

Until now, Whole Foods relied on its own employees to assemble online orders, but the program model is akin to Amazon Flex, an initiative the company rolled out several years ago that relies on independent contractors to deliver packages. 

Inherent issues

From its catbird seat, various grocery industry watchers raised questions about Amazon’s move. 

“By entrusting gig workers to put orders together for Whole Foods customers, Amazon is potentially increasing the risk that items could be damaged, spoiled or delivered late that is inherent in grocery e-commerce,” GroceryDive’s Sam Silverstein wrote.

Another question raised was that while delivery service is an easy thing to learn, in-store tasks like picking aren’t.

“Delivery from A to B is a beautiful on-demand task because it’s very straightforward, very repeatable and you don’t need a lot of training, [but] tasks in stores are often much more complicated,” Jordan Berke, a former Walmart executive and e-commerce expert who runs Tomorrow Retail Consulting, told GroceryDive.

“A person that comes to your store once a day or once every two days to pick two orders is always learning, while a person that picks 50 orders five days a week” has a better opportunity to become familiar with the lay of the land inside a grocery store, and is more likely to know where items are located and how they should be handled.

Potential good news for consumers

Online grocery shopping is growing in leaps and bounds. The segment is expected to grow from about $38 million in 2018 to nearly $60 billion by 2023. Amazon and Walmart are in a pretty secure place for the moment — and keep upping the ante — but more and more companies are trying to elbow their way in like Uber and DoorDash. The upside for consumers is that companies are constantly trying to find ways to keep prices as low as possible. 

“They’re always going to look for ways to keep their cost of service as low as possible, and always look for ways to be super responsive in fulfilling customer demand,” Tom Furphy, former Amazon vice president of consumables and Amazon Fresh, told GroceryDive. 

“Those are three constants that will always exist as long as Amazon’s around, and they will absolutely look to deliver on that in the grocery environment.

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Iberdrola and GIG in 3.3GW offshore wind push in Japan




Iberdrola has acquired local developer Acacia Renewables and entered into a joint venture with Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG) to develop its 3.3GW offshore wind portfolio.

Prior to the acquisition, Acacia was Macquarie Capital’s Japanese renewable energy platform, according to its website.

Acacia’s portfolio includes two projects with a combined capacity of 1.2GW at a more advanced stage, and a further four with a combined capacity of 2.1GW.

Spanish energy giant Iberdrola and the GIG aim to enter the first 1.2GW batch of wind farms – located off the south-west coast of Japan – in upcoming auctions announced by the Japanese government.

These first two projects could be commissioned by 2028, Iberdrola claimed.

The company said it has set its sights on Japan as a “new growth platform” in renewables, and offshore wind in particularly.

Iberdrola has stakes in operational offshore wind farms worldwide with a combined capacity of just over 1GW, while GIG has backed operational offshore wind projects with a combined capacity of just under 1.3GW, according to Windpower Intelligence, the research and data division of Windpower Monthly

The two companies will both take charge of developing Acacia’s projects.

Acacia had issued public notices of Environmental Impact Assessments for the six sites. These are wind farms called Satsuma, Nanao Shika, Fukui Konpira, Shiroishi Kosugo, Fukui Konpira and Tono.

There is currently just over 40MW of operational wind power capacity installed in Japanese waters, according to Windpower Intelligence.

However, a growing number of developers are targeting the nascent market ahead of offshore wind tenders, which are expected to be opened shortly.

Last week, Equinor, Jera and J-Power joined a long list of partnerships targeting the Japanese offshore wind market, despite the nation’s apparent slow uptake of the technology.

In 2019, the Japan Wind Power Association said that the lengthy process for environmental impact assessment was having an impact on the development of offshore wind.

One of the main obstacles for wind developers in Japan comes from opposition from local fishing communities.

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In Season Of Strikes For Gig Workers, Now Swiggy Delivery Execs In Noida Rebel




After strikes in Chennai and Hyderabad in the last 30 days, Swiggy’s delivery executives in Noida have gone on strike to protest against low wages

The delivery workers are demanding a minimum payout of INR 35 per order and restoration of monthly incentives, among other demands

Similar demands were also raised by Swiggy’s delivery partners in Hyderabad, who went on an indefinite strike last week

With similar demands as their counterparts in Chennai and Hyderabad, delivery executives with Indian foodtech unicorn Swiggy in Noida, on Thursday (September 17), went on a strike to protest against low wages. 

The strike comes just days after Swiggy’s delivery partners went on an indefinite strike in Hyderabad to protest against the low wages and to press their demands. 

In Noida, the protesting delivery workers are demanding a minimum payout per order of INR 35, a minimum payout of INR 20 per batched order (when the driver has to make more than one delivery in a single trip), and a payout at the rate of INR 10 per km after the worker has travelled more than 5 km for making a delivery, among other things.

The delivery partners in Noida, affiliated with the All India Gig Workers Union (AIGWU), have also demanded the reinstatement of monthly incentives of up to INR 3,000 for full-time work and INR 2,000 for part-time work. 

Further, the delivery partners are also demanding extra wages for deliveries made while it rains, or in nights, as also, compensation for waiting time at restaurants, while the order is being prepared. 

“Swiggy delivery workers are taking extraordinary risks by delivering food and essentials to people during this pandemic. The company cannot reward us by cutting our payouts and incentives. Our demands should be met at the earliest,” reads the letter stating the demands of AIGWU for Swiggy’s delivery workers, addressed to Swiggy’s CEO Sriharsha Majety. 

The demands of the delivery workers in Noida are similar to the demands of the workers in Hyderabad, who, earlier this week, launched an indefinite strike to protest against Swiggy paying low wages to the delivery workers. 

The workers in Hyderabad have alleged that during the lockdown, their minimum payout per order reduced from INR 35 to INR 15, while the company also removed monthly incentives to the tune of INR 5,000. 

When asked about the protest of delivery workers in Hyderabad earlier this week, a Swiggy spokesperson told Inc42, “Most delivery partners in Hyderabad make over INR 45 per order, with the highest performing partners making over INR 75 per order. This INR 15 is only one of the many components of the service fee.”

“Naturally, no active delivery partners in Hyderabad have made only INR 15 per order in the last four weeks. It is important to note that the service fee per order is based on multiple factors to adequately compensate our partners including distance travelled, waiting time, customer experience, shift completion and incentives. Regular competitive benchmarking shows that these are at par, if not higher than the industry standards,” Spokesperson added.

In what has been a season of strikes for gig workers, last month, Swiggy’s delivery executives in Chennai had gone on strike to press for their demands. A few days after the strike in Chennai, Swiggy told NDTV that the company had had a positive dialogue with the protesting delivery partners and was back to serving the entire city of Chennai with its fleet of workers.

Meanwhile, the Indian government’s new draft social security code is said to have recognised gig workers, and will mandate gig economy companies to contribute to a social security fund for gig and platform workers, reported Business Standard. Approved by the Union Cabinet last week, the code, which will have several other benefits outlined for gig workers, will come up in the Parliament’s ongoing monsoon session.

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