'No Water, No Bathroom Breaks', Amazon India Allegedly Made Employees Pledge Until Targets Are Met

'No Water, No Bathroom Breaks', Amazon India Allegedly Made Employees Pledge Until Targets Are Met

The employees at Amazon India have accused the brand of forcing employees to work without breaks amid sweltering heat.

Manasi KambleUpdated: Wednesday, June 12, 2024, 05:12 PM IST
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Women employees rest on the locker room floor at an Amazon warehouse in Manesar, Haryana | X

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Manesar, Haryana have alleged being coerced into continuous work without breaks, even in scorching temperatures exceeding 50°C. As the country grapples with an unprecedented heatwave, employees describe hazardous working conditions ignored by management.

Pledging To Work Without Breaks

On May 16, employees at the Manesar warehouse were reportedly pressured to work relentlessly to meet heightened targets. Managers allegedly instructed workers to pledge not to take any breaks, including for water or restroom visits, until targets were met. The workers were allegedly forced to use plastic bottles to urinate during the work hours as the management would keep records of idle time taken by the workers.

Safety Concerns Amid Rising Temperatures

Despite Amazon's claims of prioritizing employee safety and well-being, workers argue that the measures taken are inadequate. While the warehouse is equipped with fans and coolers, their effectiveness is minimal, with working areas often reaching temperatures between 30-35°C.

Long Hours and High Targets

Workers endure 10-hour shifts, spending most of their time on their feet, striving to meet demanding targets. Despite the intense heat, breaks are limited to two 30-minute intervals. The lack of seating exacerbates the strain on employees, who earn around Rs 10,000 per month.

Challenges for Female Workers

Female workers face additional challenges, with small and overheated break rooms leading many to seek refuge in bathrooms during breaks. However, managers monitor break durations closely, pressuring workers to return to their duties promptly.

Additionally, AIWA provided the testimony of two employees, going by the aliases Ravish and Pooja, who claimed that both male and female employees are required to labor in warehouses at oppressive temperatures. According to Ravish, female employees are compelled to take breaks in unclean restrooms.

“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.

Health Risks and Inadequate Support

Employees recount instances of colleagues fainting from the heat, only to receive minimal assistance and be urged to resume work shortly after. Workers loading and unloading trucks face particularly harsh conditions, with trailers becoming unbearably hot.

Women employees rest in the bathroom at an Amazon warehouse in Manesar, Haryana

Women employees rest in the bathroom at an Amazon warehouse in Manesar, Haryana | X

Amazon's Response

Amazon defends its practices, stating that sites are equipped with heat index monitors and measures are in place to provide a comfortable working environment. However, workers argue that their grievances have gone unaddressed, leading them to unionize to advocate for better conditions.

Global Movement for Worker Rights

The challenges faced by Amazon warehouse workers in India are part of a larger global movement advocating for safer working conditions and fair wages. Issues such as Amazon's strict leave policy and allegations of blocking IDs for taking time off without prior approval remain contentious.

As Amazon workers continue to voice their concerns, it is evident that more comprehensive measures are needed to ensure the well-being of employees in warehouses worldwide. Access to adequate breaks, hydration, and relief from extreme temperatures are fundamental rights that must be prioritized by companies like Amazon.

Amazon Market Share

Even with its hegemony in e-commerce, Amazon will account for only 6.6% of US retail sales. By contrast, the entity's operating revenue grew by just 3.4% from INR 21,462 Cr in FY22 to INR 22,198 Cr during the year under review. The loss for Amazon Seller Services in FY22 decreased by 23% YoY, while operating revenue increased by 32% over FY21.

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