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    Amazon Warehouse Workers Demand Better Working Conditions Amidst Heatwave Risks

    Raising concerns about the working conditions of Amazon India’s warehouse workers in the ongoing heatwave in India, the Amazon India Workers Association (AIWA) wrote to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, as per a press release on May 28, 2024.

    The AIWA demanded that the government acknowledge the severe temperatures in northern and western India as a “disaster” and compensate workers accordingly for working in such conditions. They demanded the following:

    • The Ministry of Labour and Employment should request the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to declare heat waves as disasters.
    • Amazon warehouse and other platform employers should provide a heat surcharge to workers during periods of extreme heat.
    • There should be a moratorium on card blocking during heat waves
    • Ensure access to shade, drinking water, and toilets for platform workers across the warehouse.
    • Provide special training to warehouse workers on heatstroke prevention, along with advisory and regular weather alerts.
    • Warehouse platforms should provide protective gears to workers, such as UV-protected long-sleeve shirts, sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, and oral rehydration solutions (ORS), free of cost.
    • Establish an emergency helpline for workers affected by heatstroke. The app should have a special option to report heat stroke, protecting workers from identity blocks.
    • In case of heatstroke, workers should be duly compensated based on their average daily earnings or the state’s declared minimum wage, whichever is higher.
    • Ensure adequate temperature in all locations of warehouses of the platforms such as Amazon.

    Kamal Kumar Niyogi, Legal Advisor to AIWA also pointed out that workers should have adequate sitting arrangements as per Section 44 (Subsection 1 and 2) of the Factories Act, 1948.

    Referring to the Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) data from April 2024, AIWA highlighted the high temperatures recorded in the country. It spoke about how the IMD reported temperatures between the range of 47-49 degree Celsius in the northern and western parts of India.

    Workers give an account of their daily lives

    AIWA also gave the account of two workers under the pseudonyms Ravish and Pooja who said that male and female workers are forced to work under unbearable temperature in warehouses. Ravish said that female workers are forced to rest in unhygienic washrooms.

    “The temperature of the warehouse is not maintained adequately.  As a result, [workers] in the loading and unloading section are forced to work under unbearable temperatures… on May 28, 2024… a temperature of 31 degree Celsius (87.7 F) [was recorded] in the dock area of Amazon warehouse. In the canteen on the same day… a temperature of 32 degree Celsius (89.6 F) [was recorded].  In the stow section… the temperature recorded on that day was 34.2 degree Celsius (93.56 F) [was recorded],” said Ravish.

    Additionally, Pooja talked about how workers were berated for their poor performance and made to take oaths on target completion on 16 May, 2024. At one point, the manager even instructed the workers to swear off water or nature breaks until they reached their targets.

    “[I] heard an announcement at 4 PM that ‘All stow workers of the Inbound department have to assemble in the stand-up area.’ All male employees and female employees were made to stand in separate queues. A woman manager came and said that this is the first time ganda kaam (poor performance) has happened at the warehouse. This is an insult for us. Thereafter, a male manager joined her and directed all workers to raise their hands and take oaths. He ordered to repeat what he was going to say. Then he said, “I take oath that the targets set for us for the remaining two hours of the day will be achieved without taking any break for water and washroom.” The manager was on round with a mike to ensure that no one goes for water and washroom break,” said Pooja.

    What has been Amazon India’s response to this?

    Nitesh Kumar Das, an AIWA member, told MediaNama that workers have sent 15 complaints to the company regarding card-blocking, sudden removal from work and the state of working conditions inside warehouses. However, the company has not responded to any of their grievances yet.

    “Most Indian companies follow India’s labour laws but Amazon does not. We want to have a tripartite dialogue with Amazon and the Indian government to ask for humane working conditions,” said Das. He added that workers are often made to stand for 10 hours during work with only two breaks per day.

    MediaNama also sent the following questions to Amazon:

    • How many complaints from warehouse workers has Amazon India received in the past year?
    • Is the company aware of the issue of card blocking wherein a worker cannot log in for work? What actions has the company taken in this regard?
    • Does the company plan to make any changes to its employee policy for the warehouse workers considering the severe heatwave in India?

    This article will be updated upon receiving a response from the company.

    Also Read:

    The post Amazon Warehouse Workers Demand Better Working Conditions Amidst Heatwave Risks appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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