Over 150 drivers, leaders and activist delegates from several cities gathered in Mumbai, India, 21-22 December to vote into existence the Indian Federation of App-Based Transport Workers (IFAT).
The conference was formally inaugurated by Shri Raja Sridhar, president of Hind Mazdoor Sabha and ITF executive board Member; Shri Sachin Ahir, ex government minister in Maharashtra and president of Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh (MRRKS) was the guest honour.
The event was also attended by many Mumbai-based trade union leaders from railways, ports, road transport and aviation.
The IFAT conference elected Shaik Salauddin of the Telangana Joint Action Committee as its first general secretary. He said: “This is a historic moment and marks the growing strength of local unions of OLA 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 governments.”
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 federation has emerged out of two years of work and several meetings among the driver leadership from across the different states to network them, share stories of unions fighting for drivers’ rights at the app-based and ride-share companies in other parts of the world and help build the campaigning capacities of the unions here,” said Sangam Tripathy, ITF assistant regional secretary, Asia Pacific.
“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 IFAT.
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 USA.
The IFAT intends to move swiftly forward with their demands to regulate the app-based taxi sector and ensure that the new labour code of the government of India includes social security for app-based sector drivers.
“We will put equal pressure on the state governments 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 IFAT 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.