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    National Human Rights Commission of India to take action against Amazon for “grueling working conditions”

    The National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) is taking action against Amazon after news reports emerged on workers criticising “grueling working conditions that could violate their human rights” The Commission said that it was taking Suo moto cognizance of anti-labour practices at one of Amazon’s warehouses in Manesar, Haryana. It has issued a notice to the Secretary of Union Ministry of Labour and Employment calling for a report in one week.

    Amazon India Workers Association (AIWA) wrote a letter to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, as per a press release on May 28, 2024 demanding 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 a heat surcharge and access to shade, drinking water and toilets to tackle the ongoing heatwave.

    Workers detail the work conditions at Amazon

    The AIWA letter detailed the grueling conditioned the workers had to work under. Two workers, under pseudonyms Ravish and Pooja, detailed their experiences stating that male and female workers were forced to work under unbearable temperature in warehouses and that female workers are forced to rest in unhygienic washrooms.

    One of them said, “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],”

    Another worker claimed that managers berated them 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.

    Noting these, the NHRC said that these conditions “raise a serious issue of human rights of the workers in violation of the labour laws and the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment from time to time.” Rajendra Acharya, Regional Secretary of UNI Global Union in Asia & Pacific, said, “this situation underscores the urgent need for comprehensive labour protections and the enforcement of existing laws to safeguard workers from extreme heat.”

    Kamal Kumar Niyogi, Legal Advisor to AIWA, referenced the Factories Act, 1948, stating that employers are required to provide adequate seating for workers who must stand for long periods.

    The impact of climate change

    The NHRC has also noted the impact of climate change and subsequent heatwaves on workers. They said, “Scientists have warned that without significant global efforts to mitigate climate change, extreme weather events, including heatwaves, will become more common and severe. This trend underscores the urgent need for both immediate act .”

    AIWA Convener Dharmendra Kumar also called for the disaster authorities to declare this a heatwave as a  disaster and take immediate and long-term measures to protect workers’ health and livelihoods.”

    Amazon’s history of poor labour conditions

    The NHRC has also noted that Amazon has has faced similar scrutiny regarding labour conditions in other countries. In the US, the company has been criticized for its high injury rates and inadequate response to worker safety concerns. In Europe, Amazon has been fined and investigated for poor working conditions and union-busting activities.

    Thus, the NHRC stated that “these global issues highlight a pattern of neglecting worker welfare that extends beyond India.”

    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.

    Also Read:

    The post National Human Rights Commission of India to take action against Amazon for “grueling working conditions” appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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