Mumbai/Hyderabad: Over, 150 drivers’ leaders and activist delegates from several cities gathered in Mumbai on 21-22 December to vote into existence the national federation called the Indian Federation of App-Based Transport Workers (IFAT).
The conference had been inaugurated by Raja Sridhar President of Hind Mazdoor Sabha and Executive Board Member, International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). Sachin Ahir, ex-Minister, the government of Maharashtra and President of Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh (MRRKS) was the guest honour.
Many Mumbai based Trade Union leaders from railways, ports, and road transport and aviation sector attended the conference. Nearly, 16 unions from Telangana were also one fo participants under the banner of the recently formed Joint Action Committee. The IFAT Conference elected Shaik Salauddin of the Telangana Joint Action Committee as its first General Secretary.
“This is a historic moment and marks the growing strength of local unions of Ola and Uber and other app-based drivers across India and their desire to speak in a unified voice with the central government. and the respective state government.” Salauddin said at the end of the meeting.
Ola also conducts mandatory verification through stringent criminal records checks as well as mandatory online training for drivers that includes modules like customer service and etiquette, platform usage, partner support, defensive driving amongst others.
“To prevent driver impersonation, Ola has put in place a facial recognition system in place, which prompts on-duty drivers to upload a selfie and authenticate themselves multiple times in between rides. This feature is live across India and is also being piloted in various international markets,” added Shaik Salauddin chairman Telangana State Taxi and Drivers JAC.
The two-day founding convention was attended by driver leaders from Delhi NCR, Jaipur, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Cochin, Mumbai, Mahabaleshwar, Panvel, and Bhopal.
“The National Federation has emerged out of 2 years of work and several meetings amongst the driver leadership from across the different states to network them, share stories of Unions fighting for drivers rights against the app-based and rideshare companies in other parts of the world and help build the campaigning capacities of the Unions,” said Sangam Tripathy, Assistant Regional Secretary, Asia Pacific of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).
“I started coming to these meetings hosted by RMMS one year ago and I am certain that the federation will grow by leaps and bounds over the next 12 months, “said Somasekhar President of the Namma Chalakara Trade Union, Bengaluru who was elected as the Joint Secretary of the Federation.
The process of building up to the national Federation over the two-year period was guided by the ITF and Biju Mathew, Secretary, New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NTWA) of the United States.
IFAT intends to move swiftly forward with their demands to regulate the app-based taxi sector and ensure that the new labor code of government of India includes social security for app-based sector drivers.
“We will put equal pressure on the state government and the central government”, said Kamaljeet Gill, Vice President of the new federation.
In Maharashtra with the new Shiv Sena, NCP, Congress government, Mumbai becomes a special focus as the regulatory city taxi scheme implementation has been pending for over 18 months.
“With the full force of the National Federation and MRRKS led by Sachinbhau Ahir behind us we certainly hope to be the first city to produce an airtight regulatory framework to protect the drivers in Mumbai”, said Prashant Sawardekar, head of Ola-Uber Unit in MRRKS.