This question was raised before the Delhi High Court and Centre was asked for its stand. The Delhi Commercial Driver Union, which claims to represent around 1.5 lakh drivers operating in the national capital region, has alleged that the two companies were not treating them as employees and instead “exploiting” them.
It has claimed in its plea that the drivers were being exploited with regard to their pay and service conditions and were also being denied benefits like compensation in case of accidents or deaths while on duty, under the labour laws.
Apart from the central government, Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva also issued a notice to the Delhi government, Uber and ANI Technologies, which provides cab services under the name of Ola, and sought their responses by August 10 on the issue raised by a drivers’ union.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva issued a notice to the Centre and Delhi Government on a Petition filed by the Delhi Commercial Driver Union for setting up of a committee to examine if these drivers should be classified as their employees, in order to monitor the implementation of various labour laws.
This committee would also look into their grievances and make appropriate recommendations to improve their pay, working conditions, and receipt of benefits such as compensation in cases of accidents or deaths.
The Delhi government, during the hearing, told the court that the issue raised was either an industrial dispute or a policy decision to be taken by the administration.
It said no representation has been made to it by the drivers highlighting their grievances.
The central government, on the other hand, said a Bill amending the Motor Vehicles Act for regulating companies like Ola and Uber has been passed by the Lok Sabha.
However, the petitioner, represented by advocates Akash Vajpai and Shoumendu Mukherji, contended that the problems faced by the drivers were not covered by the proposed legislation.
The union has complained that the drivers work under “poor working and pay conditions”. It has also sought the grant of a fixed amount as compensation to the drivers, or their next of kin, who are injured or killed due to road accidents while employed with Ola and Uber.
In support of their claim that they were employees of the companies, the drivers union has contended that Ola and Uber select a driver for a customer at their sole discretion and therefore, there is no element of freedom and independent decision making on the part of the driver.
It has said that the drivers are demanding a revision in the minimum fares and restoring bonuses that were offered in the initial days. They also said that the issue of whether these drivers are employees has been decided in their favor in the USA and the UK.
With regard to the recent protests by some taxi drivers’ unions against the fare system of Uber and Ola, the petitioner union has said that such agitations were held worldwide and not just in India.
The Petition claims to represent multiple drivers operating in Delhi NCR, and alleges that the drivers are being subjected to appalling working and pay conditions, due to “arbitrary deductions in their payments without even giving them a chance to respond”.
The Petition asserts that the drivers fall under the definition of a “workman” under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and hence, a relationship of employer and employee exists between them. It further states that since Ola and Uber are employers under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, they must give a notice to their workers before effecting any change in the conditions of service applicable to them