Protests of Amazon workers

Make_Amazon_payAmazon India Workers Association, Gig Workers Association and Hawkers Joint Action Committee together organised a demonstration in support of their demands, at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on 24th November 2023. Amazon warehouse workers, app-based gig workers and hawkers participated in large numbers in this demonstration. Their demands were written on banners and placards carried by the demonstrators.

Mazdoor Ekta Committee participated in the protest in support of their demands.

Make_Amazon_payThe number of youth, women and men who are app-based workers is increasing rapidly.  Presently, there are more than 1.5 crore gig workers in the country. Of these, 99 lakh are engaged in delivery services. According to a 2022 report of the Niti Aayog, the number of workers in the gig economy is expected to touch 2.2 crore by 2029. Lakhs of workers are working in more than 50 companies like Amazon, Swiggy, Zepto, Zomato, Flipkart, Ola, Uber, Rapido, Rodofix, Yes Madam, and Urban Company. Of these many engaged in delivery services are working for companies that are linked to large Indian monopolies like Tata Group’s Big Basket and Ambani’s Reliance Group’s Dunzo. Besides these, foreign companies like Amazon and Walmart (Flipkart’s owners) are based on gig work.

The protest began with the song, “All of us who labour are one…”

Santosh Kumar of Mazdoor Ekta Committee, Charan Singh of Hawkers Joint Action Committee, Dinesh Abhrol of Delhi Science Forum, Sangam Tripathy from Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT), Rajiv from Rajasthan Gig and App-based Workers’ Union and many workers from Amazon Warehouse and Zomato addressed the demonstration.

The speakers pointed out that the increasing unemployment and reduction in secure employment in private and public enterprises is because of the increasing dependence on gig workers in the economy. Gig workers face an acute insecurity of livelihood. They cannot count on a fixed income, their working hours are indefinite, they are deprived of all rights, and are like slaves. The situation calls for all gig workers to come forward and take up the struggle for their rights. The speakers hailed the step taken to protest as a very bold step.

The capitalist class is expanding the gig economy and justifying this in order to further increase its profits. A majority of the workers in the country’s capital city of Delhi are denied their minimum wages. They are forced to work for Rs.6000-Rs.10000 per month instead of being paid the minimum wage of Rs.17494. This has been going on for several years, notwithstanding that the party in government has been changing from time to time.

Many workers among those protesting spoke at the demonstration. One delivery worker pointed out that these companies which hire gig workers call them their “partners” but there is no evidence of partnership when it comes to sharing their profits. They are deceiving not just the workers but everyone when they call the workers their partners. Whereas we have been fighting for years for our identity as workers, these companies have been denying us minimum wage and all rights as workers.

Workers from Amazon Warehouse, Gurgaon described their abject exploitation by the company. False allegations are made against the workers, they are harassed and threatened. Unreasonable targets are set for the workers so that the company can make higher profits. When workers fall sick, they are given medication and asked to go out to deliver so that they meet their targets.

Amazon_packerOne woman worker of Amazon reported that she makes barely Rs.10,800 per month after working 10 hours every day. It is impossible to live on this amount. Amazon workers are given contracts for just one month or for 3 months or 11 months. The high targets set for the workers adversely affects the physical and mental health of the workers.

The workers have put forward the following demands – that Amazon Warehouse workers, delivery workers and all gig workers should be recognised as workers; they should be paid a minimum wage of Rs.25,000 per month contract system should be abolished; the card blocking system should be ended; compensation should be awarded for accidents; toilets and other facilities befitting the dignity of women workers should be provided; Diwali bonus of Rs.20,000 should be paid to the workers, etc. Further, they have demanded guarantee of  social security – PF, ESI, and establishment of a tripartite board of company representatives, workers and the government. Hawkers and  small businesses should be protected from competition and e-commerce companies should be regulated.

At the end of the protest meeting, the workers submitted a petition to the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

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