Missing wages, urine bottles: Disturbing delivery driver stories

via businessinsider:

  • Business Insider spoke with 31 current or recently employed drivers about what it’s like to deliver packages for Amazon.
  • Some drivers described a variety of alleged abuses, including lack of overtime pay, missing wages, intimidation, and favoritism.
  • Many of these drivers also described a physically demanding work environment in which, under strict time constraints, they felt pressured to drive at dangerously high speeds, blow stop signs, and urinate in bottles on their trucks.
  • The drivers we interviewed are managed by third-party courier companies that work out of Amazon facilities. Amazon provides the companies with packages, delivery routes, navigation software, and scanning devices.
  • In response to this story, Amazon said, “While it is impossible to characterize a network of thousands of delivery drivers based on anecdotes, we do recognize small businesses sometimes need more support when scaling fast.”
  • The company also said it’s working to improve the system through a new program that provides special rates for van maintenance, insurance plans, and other assets.

Zachariah Vargas was six hours into his shift delivering packages for Amazon.

He was about to drop off a package when he accidentally slammed the door of his truck on his hand. The door clicked shut, trapping his middle and ring fingers.

Once he freed his fingers, the blood began to pour. Both of Vargas’ arms started to shake involuntarily. The lacerations were deep. Vargas thought he glimpsed bone when he wiped away the blood.

Panicked, Vargas called his dispatch supervisor, who was working at a nearby Amazon facility.

He said he received no sympathy.

“The first thing they asked was, ‘How many packages do you have left?'” he told Business Insider.

Vargas had dozens remaining. Delivering them all would take several hours. Still, his supervisor advised him to drop them all off before returning to the station or seeking care.

Vargas ignored his boss and headed back. He was worried, and there was no first-aid kit in the truck.

When he arrived at the station he said he was mocked.

“My dispatcher kept saying, ‘Are you dying right now? Girls have come back with worse wounds than you,'” Vargas said.

The same manager ordered Vargas to unload his truck and pointed toward an Amazon official at the warehouse and told him: “Amazon is watching you. They don’t like when undelivered packages come back.”

Vargas also claims another supervisor told him he should have knocked on a customer’s door to ask for a Band-Aid, then continued on his route.

The supervisors told him to go to the hospital to prove he was injured, even though he did not have health insurance at the time, Vargas said.

“At that moment I realized, ‘I don’t know if I want to continue working for this company if they don’t even care what happens to me,'” he added. “It was a wake-up call.”

Vargas’ experience may be extreme. But he isn’t the only driver delivering packages for Amazon who has found the job alarmingly tough.

With Amazon’s rapid growth, the environment for drivers is getting only more demanding.

Amazon has more than 100 million paying Prime members. The membership, which costs $119 annually, promises free two-day shipping on millions of items and same-day delivery through Prime Now.

The company delivered over 5 billion Prime packages worldwide in 2017. To ensure that millions of packages are delivered each day, Amazon employs some drivers through its Amazon Flex program. The Flex drivers work directly with Amazon. They make their own hours and are their own bosses.

Amazon also uses FedEx, UPS, and USPS, as well as third-party courier companies that it calls delivery service partners, or DSPs, which manage their own fleets.

Delivery service partners are companies that employ and manage many drivers, like Vargas, who work to fulfill deliveries for partners such as Amazon. Vargas did not wish to name his employer.

For Amazon, paying third-party companies to deliver packages is a cost-effective alternative to providing full employment. And the speed of two-day shipping is great for consumers. But delivering that many packages isn’t easy, and the job is riddled with problems, according to interviews with 31 current or recently employed Amazon-affiliated delivery workers with experience across 14 third-party companies spanning 13 cities.

In interviews over the course of eight months, drivers described a variety of alleged abuses, including lack of overtime pay, missing wages, intimidation, and favoritism. Drivers also described a physically demanding work environment in which, under strict time constraints, they felt pressured to drive at dangerously high speeds, blow stop signs, and skip meal and bathroom breaks.

Many of their accounts were supported by text messages, photographs, internal emails, legal filings, and peers.

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