Severe Heatwave Exacerbates Amazon Warehouse Conditions, Struggles Continue For Industry Overall

With temperatures soaring to unprecedented levels, reaching and even crossing 50°C in parts of India, one cannot help but think about the plight of blue-collar workers as those with white-collar jobs sit comfortably in their air-conditioned offices. A situation that illustrates this statement is that of Amazon warehouse workers struggling with distressing working conditions.

Thousands of employees across Amazon facilities in the country are demanding improved working environments and better labor practices. Their demands for better working conditions have been persistent but enhanced as the mercury rises.

Manju Goel, a leader of the Workers’ Association in Manesar, Haryana, highlights the severe lack of ventilation and cooling in Amazon’s warehouses. With approximately 2,000 workers in her facility, the oppressive conditions force them to stand for 10 hours straight without seating, all for a meager monthly salary of around 10,000 rupees.

“We cannot go to the washroom for hours on end, and the break rooms are too small to accommodate everyone, especially in this heat,” Goel explained, emphasizing the unbearable conditions faced daily.

Neha, a 25-year-old worker, recounts the grueling routine of waking up at 5 am, working 10 to 12-hour shifts, and performing strenuous tasks without proper rest. Many workers are required to walk up to 25 kilometers per day, with managers tracking their idle time closely. Even momentary breaks invite scrutiny.

Workers also criticized Amazon’s strict attendance policy. “If we miss a day due to health reasons or family emergencies, our IDs are blocked, impacting our livelihoods,” said one worker, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisal.

A spokesperson from the Labor Ministry stated they were unaware of these specific issues but would look into the matter.

In response to the allegations, an Amazon spokesperson said: “Safety and wellbeing of our associates is of utmost priority for us. With several parts of the country witnessing significant heat due to high temperatures along with humidity, a ‘heat stress prevention’ program has been developed for associates in our buildings and out on the road making customer deliveries. Some of the measures include enhanced ventilation and air conditioning inside our buildings, availability of oral rehydration solutions for all associates, and education and awareness campaigns across different channels of communication for associates.”

Common Signs of Heat Stress in Warehouse Workers

Despite these measures, safety concerns remain. Workers handling heavy packages often do so without proper equipment like gloves. Neha reported that several workers have fainted from the heat while carrying heavy equipment, only to be given paracetamol and told to resume work within minutes.

Dharmendra Kumar, convenor of the Amazon India Workers Association, pointed out that the heatwave has worsened working conditions, prompting workers to unionize and voice their demands more strongly. Kumar alleged that despite multiple complaints to Amazon and the labor ministry, no significant action has been taken.

“Workers have sent evidence from various locations such as loading, unloading, scanning, and packing areas. Even though most areas are air-conditioned, temperatures inside still exceed 30°C, which is unacceptable,” Kumar stated. He added that workers are under constant pressure to meet targets and are strictly prohibited from taking breaks.

The situation at Amazon warehouses is part of a broader issue affecting blue-collar workers across India amid extreme heatwaves. Factory workers, construction laborers, and delivery personnel are all facing increased risks due to the scorching temperatures. The extreme heat not only impacts their health but also exacerbates supply chain issues, leading to delays and inefficiencies.

As India braces for more frequent and intense heatwaves, the need for comprehensive heat action plans and improved working conditions becomes ever more critical. Ensuring the safety and well-being of workers is not just a moral obligation but also essential for the stability and efficiency of the supply chain and logistics sectors. Companies, policymakers, and society at large must address these issues and ensure a safer, more humane working environment for all.

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