E-Commerce Employees Suffer Through Heatwaves And Low Pay

The country is reeling under intense heat waves, especially in the north, forcing warehouse workers to endure longer hours in extreme heat without proper restrooms.

10 Jun 2024 12:30 AM GMT

When Anushka (name changed for anonymity) left her hometown Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh for a job at Amazon's Manesar warehouse, she didn't anticipate the grueling conditions of longer working hours and minimum wage. Employed at the facility for three years, Anushka handles inbound inventory, working 10-hour shifts, five days a week. She and her colleagues must process 150 items per hour, with performance monitored hourly and the risk of termination for failing to meet targets.

Living away from home, Anushka shares accommodation with other workers. Her day starts at 6 am, catching a company bus at 7:30 am, and beginning work at 8:30 am after a briefing. Despite the long hours, workers receive only two 30-minute breaks, effectively reduced to 25 minutes to return to their stations early. The job requires standing for 10 hours without seating, adding to their physical strain.

“The high targets and lack of adequate facilities to combat the heat are affecting our health. The warehouse is enclosed with no windows,” Anushka told The Core. With the country experiencing intense heat waves, especially in the north where temperatures exceed 50°C, workers endure longer hours in extreme heat without proper restrooms. “Despite the air conditioning, the high ceilings mean we often don't feel its effects. I have health issues like low blood pressure due to the heatwave and leg pain from prolonged standing,” Anushka said.

The Ama...

When Anushka (name changed for anonymity) left her hometown Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh for a job at Amazon's Manesar warehouse, she didn't anticipate the grueling conditions of longer working hours and minimum wage. Employed at the facility for three years, Anushka handles inbound inventory, working 10-hour shifts, five days a week. She and her colleagues must process 150 items per hour, with performance monitored hourly and the risk of termination for failing to meet targets.

Living away from home, Anushka shares accommodation with other workers. Her day starts at 6 am, catching a company bus at 7:30 am, and beginning work at 8:30 am after a briefing. Despite the long hours, workers receive only two 30-minute breaks, effectively reduced to 25 minutes to return to their stations early. The job requires standing for 10 hours without seating, adding to their physical strain.

“The high targets and lack of adequate facilities to combat the heat are affecting our health. The warehouse is enclosed with no windows,” Anushka told The Core. With the country experiencing intense heat waves, especially in the north where temperatures exceed 50°C, workers endure longer hours in extreme heat without proper restrooms. “Despite the air conditioning, the high ceilings mean we often don't feel its effects. I have health issues like low blood pressure due to the heatwave and leg pain from prolonged standing,” Anushka said.

The Amazon India Workers’ Association (AIWA) has received multiple complaints from warehouse workers about serious health issues caused by the heatwave. AIWA recently highlighted these harsh conditions by sharing images of workers resting in locker rooms on X (formerly Twitter), criticizing the lack of break room facilities, and demanding immediate heat protection measures. AIWA, established three years ago, advocates for better rest facilities and separate spaces for female workers.

The Core contacted Amazon India and will update the story once they respond.

The All India Gig Workers’ Union (AIGWU) has also reported complaints of poor working conditions in various warehouses. “In Mumbai, we receive complaints from Bhiwandi and Andheri warehouses about inadequate ventilation and water facilities,” Manoj Jadav, AIGWU – Mumbai Organiser, told The Core.

Low Wages and Long Hours

K.K. Niyogi, legal advisor at AIWA, said that at Amazon's warehouses employees are mandated to work 10 hours daily, despite labour laws capping the workday at 8 hours. "Even with these extended hours, workers see no corresponding increments or sufficient incentives," Nirogi told The Core. Anushka, who earns a monthly salary of Rs 10,088, has not seen a pay increase since she started. "We receive an incentive of about Rs 3,250, but only if our attendance is perfect for the month," Anushka said.

AIWA has repeatedly filed complaints with the Ministry of Labour and Employment regarding these conditions but has seen no action. "Every time we file a complaint, the government assures us they are looking into it, but nothing happens," Niyogi said. Employees at Amazon are hesitant to voice their concerns due to fear of termination. "I’ve seen colleagues dismissed for various reasons, and I don’t want to risk my job by speaking up," Anushka said.

Both Amazon warehouse workers and last-mile delivery partners are increasingly voicing their concerns through AIGWU, seeking better working conditions amidst the extreme weather.

Last-Mile Delivery Riders' Concerns

Zomato, the food delivery giant, recently urged customers to offer water to their delivery executives. However, this raises the question: what are last-mile delivery companies doing for their employees? Mohammad Sameer Ansari, a Zepto delivery worker for eight months, told The Core, “I work from 6 am to 6 pm, completing around 18 orders daily. While we ensure timely deliveries, the company should also address our basic needs in the heat by providing sun protection gear like sunglasses, gloves, or caps.”

To cope with the summer heat, some workers have adjusted their shift timings. Abhishek Kumar, a Swiggy delivery rider for three years, told The Core, “I used to work from 12 pm to 12 am, but the unbearable heat forced me to switch to a 3 pm to 3 am shift for a month.” Despite this change, he still needs to complete at least 30 orders per day.

The heatwave is not only affecting employees but also disrupting operations for quick commerce companies. In the Delhi-NCR region, Zomato-owned Blinkit is facing operational challenges due to a labour shortage caused by the extreme heat. Soaring temperatures have severely affected the health of Blinkit’s workers.

Updated On: 10 Jun 2024 10:09 AM GMT
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