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USA: Amazon's decentralised next-day delivery network linked to exploitation of drivers, labour violations & fatalities; Inc. co. comments

Author: Caroline O'Donovan & Ken Bensinger, BuzzFeed News, Published on: 2 September 2019

"The Cost of Next-Day Delivery", 31 August 2019

Valdimar Gray was delivering packages for Amazon... when his three-ton van barreled into an 84-year-old grandmother... [he] had been at the wheel... since early that morning, racing to drop Amazon packages on doorsteps throughout Chicago... Gray submitted to drug and alcohol tests, which came up clean. He would later be charged with reckless homicide.

[They]... didn’t ask Gray about the constant pressure for speed he faced as a driver for Inpax... one of hundreds of small companies that make up Amazon’s gigantic delivery network across America... [T]he company’s drivers worked under relentless demands to deliver hundreds of packages... [Amazon] refused to accept any responsibility. “The damages, if any, were caused, in whole or in part, by third parties not under the direction or control of Amazon.com,” its lawyers said...

Inpax had... been repeatedly cited by the Department of Labor for withholding pay from its drivers... [T]he company was struggling to make ends meet on the razor-thin margins of a system set up by Amazon to squeeze contractors while minimizing its own costs at every turn... But... Amazon continued using the company to deliver its packages...

Amazon drivers say they often have to deliver upwards of 250 packages a day... which works out to a dizzying pace of less than two minutes per package based on an eight-hour shift...

Amazon goes further than gig economy companies such as Uber, which insist its drivers are independent contractors with no rights as employees. By contracting instead with third-party companies, who in turn employ drivers, Amazon divorces itself from the people delivering its packages...

[Amazon] said that because many of the cases... are in active litigation, it cannot discuss them in detail. However, the company said safety is always its top priority...

Amazon denies any responsibility for the conditions in which drivers work, but it has continued to contract with at least a dozen companies that have been repeatedly sued or cited by regulators for alleged labor violations, including failing to pay overtime, denying workers breaks, discrimination, sexual harassment, and other forms of employee mistreatment... Amazon said it expects its delivery operators to comply with the law...

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Related companies: Amazon.com