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10 Oct 2023

Alastair Gee, The Guardian (UK)

McDonald’s and Amazon’s ties to alleged labor trafficking: five key takeaways


Here are five key takeaways from the stories.

Unbearable conditions as a contract worker at Amazon


After they arrived they discovered they were instead employed by Saudi labor supply firms, and earned about $350 a month, or as little as one-quarter of what they say direct Amazon employees earned.

They say they worked long days in vast warehouses and were discouraged from taking water or toilet breaks. And many say often they were housed six to eight in a room in accommodations infested with cockroaches. The water supply was unreliable and salty and gave them rashes, workers say.

Arbitrary fees and penalties


Workers for McDonald’s and Amazon, for instance, say they were asked to pay a “recruiting fee” to independent employment firms in their home countries. The Nepali workers at Amazon say this could be as much as $2,300, even though the Nepali government mandates that such fees must be less than $85. Commonly, they say they took out loans to pay them, and felt they could not quit their jobs because they would be unable to repay the money...

No way out

Fourteen workers at IHG-branded hotels and at Chuck E Cheese franchises claim that managers confiscated their passports. An assistant manager at Chuck E Cheese says this was done to make sure that staff did not “run away from the company and work in other companies”. Doing so is against the law in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

IHG workers also say they were not permitted to resign if they received better employment offers elsewhere.

In limbo after being let go

Nepali workers at Amazon say they had minimal job security, and that they were let go when business slowed. They claim they were then forced to leave the already dismal accommodations in which they were living and sent to grim new lodgings that did not have beds or internet service. They say they had no wages and could barely afford to eat.

Limited protections

insiders from the industry says that auditing is frequently ineffective.

They and experts claim that auditing reports may be falsified, that auditors do not always act independently from the companies they are auditing, and that it is common for results of audits to be kept out of the public