'You will be infected or you will die of starvation': Amazon contractors reportedly say their office is still unsafe months after first complaining of 'subhuman' conditions

Katie Canales
·4 min read
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Kyodo News via Getty Images
  • Amazon Ring contractors spoke to NBC News about worsening working conditions at a call center in the Philippines, after photos first surfaced in April of employees sleeping on the floor between shifts.

  • The contractors reportedly said Amazon does not allow them to work from home over security concerns, and the shuttle service offered is not reliable.

  • The report detailed a lack of social distancing measures at the facility and poor sanitation, sometimes only amounting to a wipe down using a bucket of water and a towel.

  • Dozens of workers have developed flu-like symptoms as many are faced with either showing up to work or sacrificing pay to avoid contracting COVID-19, according to the report.

  • "Ring does not tolerate violations of our vendor Code of Conduct ... If we find any violations, we will take the appropriate steps to address them, including immediate corrective action," an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Related: Here are 13 ways Amazon gets you to spend more

Contractors for Amazon's Ring division say they're still scared to go to work six months after first complaining of poor working conditions, per a Thursday NBC News.

In April, workers at a Philippines call center said they were working under "subhuman" conditions, with no room for social distancing and limited sanitation. Photos of employees sleeping on the floor of the center in close proximity to each other were circulated online as workers said they felt pressured to stay near the office to make it to their shifts on time, as the Financial Times reported. Teleperformance, the contractor who employs the workers at the call center, said it would address their complaints.

But according to workers who spoke to NBC News, working conditions have only gotten worse as the coronavirus disease continues to spread across the globe. Teleperformance stopped letting employees sleep on the floor of the call center, according to the report, but the contractors says it didn't offer an alternative.

In an emailed statement, an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that "nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams including contractors. Ring does not tolerate violations of our vendor Code of Conduct, and we also require our vendors to follow government orders and recommendations regarding COVID-19. This includes strict guidelines for social distancing, use of protective equipment, and sanitation. If we find any violations, we will take the appropriate steps to address them, including immediate corrective action."

Employee complaints began after Cebu City, where the call center in the Philippines is located, shut down public transit. Teleperformance began offering work shuttles to take employees to and from the call center instead. But workers said the shuttles have unreliable service, sometimes arriving late to pick them up from their homes and taking too long to drop them off after the end of their shifts.

Amazon Ring said it does not allow them to work from home over what it told NBC is "the data security and privacy of our customers," a common reason tech companies, like Facebook, have given for bringing some, mostly contract employees back to offices while transmission rates remain high and many areas are still under some form of work-from-home orders. Still, the contractors for Ring told NBC they aren't able to access confidential personal information without a customer's consent.

Dozens of the call center's employees have developed flu-like symptoms, which are characteristic of COVID-19 infection, according to the report. Workers say that workstations aren't properly sanitized, and when shifts overlap, it's difficult to socially distance. Cleaning staff comes through sporadically and when they do, it's with a bucket of water and a towel, employees told NBC.

"People are scared because we don't know who has it and who doesn't have it," a contractor told the outlet. "But people don't have a choice, because it's either you will be infected or you will die of starvation."

A spokesperson for Teleperformance told NBC that the "safety and wellbeing of our employees will always be the top priority" and that it offers health insurance for sick employees.

The report highlights tech's ongoing tendency to outsource much of its operations, resulting in criticism from some who say workers are being exploited for the sake of cutting costs for the billion-dollar companies. It's a business practice that has been employed long before the pandemic set in earlier this year, but the health crisis has only made the issue more acute as reports of poor working conditions have come into focus.

Amazon employees in the US have expressed concern over the company's handling of the coronavirus. Business Insider in April spoke with workers in Texas, California, and other states who say they were afraid to go to work with Amazon's facilities acting as "breeding grounds" for infection due to a lack of social distancing and hand sanitizers.

You can read the full report on NBC News here.

Read the original article on Business Insider