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Better pay, working hours: Gig workers’ raise demands at ‘Make Amazon Pay’ protest in Delhi

At the Delhi protest, 15-20 workers donned black masks with gags made of Amazon delivery stickers while another lampooned Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos with a horned mask. They also raised slogans of 'mazdoori ekta zindabad' and 'Amazon murdabad'.

Also present were members of the Gig Workers Association and the Hawkers Joint Action Committee.

Several Amazon workers held a protest meeting at Jantar Mantar on Friday, as part of the ‘Make Amazon Pay’ gatherings happening worldwide, raising a series of demands including a wage of at least Rs 25,000 a month as well as adequate lunchtime and restroom facilities.

Also present were members of the Gig Workers Association and the Hawkers Joint Action Committee. Worldwide, a ‘Make Amazon Pay’ coalition of 80 organisations, is holding similar events across 30 countries on the occasion of ‘Black Friday’, traditionally a busy shopping day.

At the Delhi protest, 15-20 workers donned black masks with gags made of Amazon delivery stickers while another lampooned Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos with a horned mask. They also raised slogans of ‘mazdoori ekta zindabad’ and ‘Amazon murdabad’.

The list of demands included a minimum wage of Rs 25,000 a month; reduction of working hours from 10 to 8; removal of employee surveillance; proper lunch time; restrooms and seating arrangement; and creche arrangements for women.

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Warehouse worker Manju Goel alleged, “There are no places to sit… we have to work standing continuously for 10 hours… for Rs 10,000… In 30 minutes’ time for eating, 20 minutes are wasted in punching in and out.”

Other protesters too raised the issue of inadequate salaries and of being “overworked”.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said: “These groups represent a variety of interests, and while we are not perfect in any area, if you objectively look at what Amazon is doing in each one of these areas, you’ll see that we do take our role and our impact very seriously. We are inventing and investing significantly in all these areas, playing a significant role in addressing climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, continuing to offer competitive wages and great benefits, and inventing new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy in our operations network, to name just a few. Anyone can see for themselves by taking a tour at one of our sites.”

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General demands raised for all gig workers included recognition of delivery drivers as workers and schemes such as ESIC and PF, along with the immediate implementation of the Street Vendors Act and vending licences for all street vendors.

H S Rawat of the Hawkers Joint Action Committee said workers would have to stand in solidarity with each other and that no matter the government, they would be ready to raise their voices for the rights of workers.

Human rights activist Indu Prakash Singh also praised the efforts of those present at the event, terming gig company practices as “mazdoor virodhi”. “Companies can try to buy leaders, but in this country, we have a Constitution,” she said.

First published on: 26-11-2022 at 05:40 IST
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