India: Urban Company women workers protest over working conditions & pay; incl. co. comments
In October 2021, over 100 women working as beauticians and spa attendants under the platform Urban Company went on strike, protesting against low wages, high commissions, and unsafe working conditions.
According to the women, Urban Company charged them as much as 30% for commission, and did not offer insurance. They were also frequently allocated night shifts, and were compelled to buy beauty goods from the company, which were more expensive than those on the market. The workers further alleged that if they completed less than 30 jobs a month, they were charged ₹2,000.
In response, the workers say Urban Company sent them a message, warning they would take "police action against anyone who stops other partners going to work".
In a statement, the company later announced a 12-point agenda to improve workers' earnings, and to be more transparent. This included reducing the commission cap from 35% to 25%, and increasing the cost of high demand services. Urban Company also said it would remove temporary blocks on service professionals, reducing overall blocks by 80%.
In December 2021, about 50 women protested outside Urban Company's office against policy changes they argued would threaten the initiatives proposed in the 12-point agenda.. These changes included a new Flexi category that workers would be put on if they opted out of the new subscription scheme. Workers were worried low response rates would lead to lower income, as the Flexi category only assigned jobs to people with quick response rates. Furthermore, under the Flexi category, workers could only work on high demand days.
Under the new subscription system, workers said they would need to pay a fee upfront, and if they failed to complete 40 jobs in any month, they would lose their deposit.
The workers also reported that some workers were asked to provide customers with a 10% discount taken from their earnings.
In response, Urban Company filed for an injunction to stop the workers from protesting.
Company comments can be found below.