Cab aggregator vs. driver partner: conceptualising labour agency of digital platform workers in Mumbai, India
(Indian Institute of Management Calcutta)
Paper short abstract:
It empirically examines the labour agency and strategy of resilience, reworking and resistance of the driver partners working on digital platforms of Uber/Ola cab aggregators. It examines driver partner's experiences of labour market injustice mediated through the digital platform and algorithm.
Paper long abstract:
Cab drivers working on the digital platform of cab aggregators have a unique employment relationship, where the production process is effectively 'unbundled' from formal occupation and the workers are referred as 'driver partners' or 'independent contractors'. Cab drivers on digital platforms have limited legal protection and are deemed to be workers without employers working for the shadow corporations of the gig economy. The digital platform intermediary is considered to undermine the collective agency of labour through individualized performance linked pay and incentive system. By having digital platform and Algorithmic Management as intermediary, most of the angst between labour and capital is either redirected towards algorithm's obstacles or in devising means to ingeniously optimize individual's gains within the boundaries of algorithm. While effective in asserting control over labour process, a recent spate of strikes at multiple Indian cities highlights the undercurrent of worker's activism against the cab-aggregator's digital platform. Using empirical evidence from city of Mumbai (India), this paper conceptualises the potential of collective action of labour agency and its scope to renegotiate, rework or resist discriminatory practices or perceived injustice of the platform economy. On a related note it reveals the strategy of the cab-aggregators to maintain the status quo and mitigate the business risks posed through the labour collectives. Overall the paper attempts to theorize the conflict and negotiation between the cab-aggregators and driver partners.