Indian Trade Unions Join Black Friday Protests Against Amazon

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Organisations such as Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal, Hawkers’ Joint Action Committee, Gig Workers’ Association and All India People Science Network will join the campaign

The gig workers association said that they will organise protests across the country in 11 cities while the hawkers joint action committee will plan stir in 15 cities

In 2021, Black Friday protests saw Amazon employees in 20 countries including India protest against the company

Multiple Indian trade unions joined a global walkout call on ‘Black Friday’ to protest the alleged exploitative practices of ecommerce major Amazon. 

Organisations such as Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal, Hawkers’ Joint Action Committee, Gig Workers’ Association and All India People Science Network, All India IT and ITeS Employees’ Union and Joint Action Committee against Foreign Retail and E-commerce joined the campaign to put pressure on Amazon.

Putting up a common front, leaders of Hawkers’ Joint Action Committee, Gig Workers’ Association and IT for Change also protested in Delhi on Friday, hours before the actual sale went live in the US. 

“Amazon has become a global giant exercising a completely new model of exploitation… It becomes a new paradigm of granular control, which creates exploitative conditions for workers and traders,” IT for Change’s executive director Parminder Jeet Singh was quoted by Business Standard as saying.

An ex-Amazon employee was quoted by the report saying, “We were forced to pack around 250 items within an hour. It is a suffocating hall without a place to sit. The breaks were so small that we could hardly eat anything.”

Indian trade associations joined their counterparts from more than 40 countries including the US, the UK, Japan, Australia, South Africa and across Europe. 

The protesting employees are demanding minimum wages of at least INR 25,000, reducing minimum working hours, fixed-term contracts, and better working conditions. 

“While the cost-of-living crisis is hitting working people across the world and our planet keeps heating up, Amazon is squeezing every last drop it can from workers, communities and the planet. That’s why we are mobilising again on Black Friday this year,” said Gig Workers Association in an online petition.

Big Friday is the biggest festive sales event in the United States, which falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving and is the biggest sales event for Amazon as well. Last year, Amazon accounted for more than 17% of the total Black Friday sales, emerging as the biggest seller online. 

A Regular Iteration?

This is not the first time that the ecommerce major is witnessing massive protests in the run-up to Black Friday sales. In 2021, Amazon employees in 20 countries, including India had protested against the company as part of the ‘Make Amazon Pay’ campaign.

Prior to that, in March 2021, Amazon delivery drivers in the country went on a 24-hour stir to protest their slashed earnings per package. 

In 2018 and 2020 as well, protests were held around the same time by company employees calling for better working conditions and better salaries. 

Interestingly, the protests come at a time when the ecommerce major is facing some of its toughest years in recent times. It recently announced that it was firing 11,000 people or nearly 13% of its global workforce, as part of a restructuring drive.

Back home in India, it has shut its edtech vertical and has even pulled the shutters on its pilot food delivery programme. The ecommerce major is also in the crosshairs of labour ministry and employees union, which has sought government intervention over mass layoffs at the Indian arm.

Its flagship ecommerce portal has also failed to turn any profits even though the company has pumped more than $6 Bn into the country in the past eight years. With all said and done, it remains to be seen what will be the effect of the stir on Amazon. Who will reign? Only time will tell.

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