Keeping Delivery Boxes Without Residents’ Permission? Amazon’s “harsh working conditions” force delivery workers to choose between violations. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Keeping Delivery Boxes Without Residents’ Permission? Amazon’s “harsh working conditions” force delivery workers to choose between violations.

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Susumu Adachi (pseudonym), who has been working for Amazon for more than three years, worked in January of this year, with a total of around 200 packages assigned by AI and an average daily working time of nearly 12 hours, not including his one-hour lunch break.

The Nishinippon Shimbun reported that Amazon’s delivery service had been opening delivery boxes, which are used to temporarily store packages when residents are not home, without permission, and that Amazon’s delivery staff had been taking packages out of the boxes and placing their own packages in them. The reason behind this was the difficult situation in which Amazon delivery staff must deliver nearly 200 packages a day. In order to meet their quota, the delivery staff tried to reduce the amount of time they spent on redelivery by keeping delivery boxes in places where they could not enter due to automatic locks or where so-called “left-behind delivery” was not possible.

In response to an interview by The Nishinippon Shimbun, Amazon Japan said We regret the incident with our delivery service partners (delivery staff, etc.) and are currently investigating the matter. We are working to provide a reliable delivery experience and to ensure the safe delivery of products to our customers” (Operations PR).

So, how hard are Amazon delivery workers working? The following is a reproduction (with some additions and corrections) of an October 20, 2011 article that reflects the real voices of current delivery workers.

It is a joy for anyone to get what he or she wants. When it arrives overnight or in a day, the smile on one’s face becomes even brighter when one receives the package from the deliveryman. But what about the delivery person’s body and soul who delivers that joy?

Susumu Adachi (pseudonym, in his 40s), who has been in charge of Amazon delivery for nearly three years, told us the following words exchanged among those involved in the business.

The last mile is the toughest part of the Amazon business.

The “last mile” refers to the final stage from the time an order is placed with a single click to the time it arrives at its destination, from the distribution center to the point of delivery.

Mr. Adachi began delivering Amazon packages in January 2020. Since the spread of corona infection promoted telecommuting nationwide, the use of and other mail-order services has skyrocketed.

The previous year, an Amazon distribution center opened in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Japanese transportation companies joined the market. Mr. Adachi, who had always enjoyed driving and had worked as a newspaper deliveryman on scholarship when he was younger, had the know-how to grasp the lay of the land and make efficient deliveries. When he heard that an acquaintance had started a second subcontracting company, he immediately took on the job of delivering Amazon products.

At first, Adachi, who had the experience and aptitude for the job, says he was “rather overpaid” for his daily work.

His contract as a driver was not an employment contract; he was a freelancer, a so-called sole proprietor. He leases a delivery vehicle from the company for 1,000 yen per day (30,000 yen per month). He knows the delivery routes by heart and delivers packages in the most efficient order. Mr. Adachi, who has experience in this field, was able to deliver an average of 100 packages during his initial working hours when the unit price was 170 yen per package, and 120 packages during the peak season, with enough time for breaks.

In July 2020, the company changed the daily rate to 18,000 yen and the daily delivery workday to 13 hours, or 60 hours per week. Since the daily delivery volume had fluctuated somewhat up to that point, the company was pleased that the fixed daily rate would lead to a stable income.

A year later, however, after Amazon introduced AI, the situation changed drastically. Amid the spread of corona infection, the number of packages to be delivered within 13 hours increased. Before they knew it, the number of packages kept growing, eventually exceeding 200. The unit price of packages was reduced by half.

The company would bring in packages for the morning delivery from the distribution center and deliver them to residences, returning to the center by 3:00 p.m. to load them for the afternoon delivery. Although this is converted into delivery time from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., taking into account the one-hour lunch break, in reality there is no time for lunch or even a break, and the drivers just keep on delivering packages, getting in their cars, and moving on to the next one.

The simple calculation is that it takes about four minutes to move to the next delivery location, scan the package, ring the doorbell, and deliver one package. Of course, the delivery locations are not always adjacent to each other, and sometimes heavy packages must be carried to the fifth floor of an apartment building without an elevator. Mr. Adachi expresses his frustration.

It may be hard to understand when you hear that we deliver for 13 hours a day, but in reality we are constantly getting in and out of the car without a break. We work very hard to finish each load in time.

A delivery person sorts packages in an apartment in southwest Manhattan, New York, U.S., before the spread of the new coronavirus. The large number of packages carried by a single person is common worldwide (Photo: Kyodo News)

The driver’s delivery schedule is monitored on a second-by-second basis, but he is never able to finish in four minutes per case. Even so, they feel strongly that they must finish their deliveries for the day, no matter what time it is.

Is this loyalty to the company?

Mr. Adachi says, “It’s more of a desire to respond to what the customers are waiting for.

Delivery routes” determined by AI, which has no experience with actual vehicles.

However, if they continue to make deliveries for 13 hours a day, or even longer in some cases, without a break, by the end of the day, they are “exhausted,” both physically and mentally. Not only do the smiles disappear, but the deliverymen also bow their heads and beg for forgiveness from the clients after 9:00 p.m., which is set as the last hour of delivery.

Delivery routes were also calculated and determined by the AI, which had no actual driving experience. One-way streets, railroad crossings, detours at construction sites, etc. were not taken into account. Recently, although routes are now determined by humans, delivery times remain fixed, and the volume of goods increases in response to public demand.

The “norishiro” to adjust the time is to increase the speed of the car. Drivers trying to make up for delays are half-intimidated and frequent traffic accidents occur. It is a very dangerous working environment. The film “When I Think of My Family,” by the British film master Ken Loach, reflects exactly the way Amazon delivery drivers work.

In June of last year, Mr. Adachi and 10 others formed the Yokosuka Branch of the Amazon Delivery Workers Union in an effort to change this dangerous labor practice. In September, 15 drivers in Nagasaki City also joined together to form the “Nagasaki Branch” as a result of labor consultation and other activities.

The union immediately requested collective bargaining with secondary subcontractors. The union pointed out the possibility of disguised contracting work and demanded that the long working hours be corrected by optimizing the delivery volume.

Such pursuit by the labor union revealed another new shocking reality. It was revealed that the company had instructed workers to use someone else’s code if they worked more than 60 hours per week.

Personal codes are assigned by the company to each delivery person in order to keep track of arrival and departure times, location information, and work progress. However, for drivers who had exceeded 60 hours, the company instructed them to use someone else’s code, such as a retiree.

Members of the Yokosuka Branch of the Tokyo Union of Amazon Delivery Workers raise their voices after visiting the headquarters of Amazon Japan last June (Photo: Kyodo News)

The labor union organized by Mr. Adachi and his colleagues has also filed a collective bargaining proposal regarding these demands with Amazon Japan LLC, which has an outsourcing contract with the second-tier subcontractor, but the company responded that it has no direct employment relationship with the delivery workers and has not responded to negotiations.

Amazon Japan’s Saying

Amazon Japan is planning to further increase its cargo volume, and we hear that the company is considering changing its daily deliveries from the current 200 to 250, but will the delivery staff’s cargo volume increase even more than it does now? When we sent a letter of inquiry to Amazon Japan, the company declined to comment on specific questions, saying, “We will refrain from commenting on specific questions.

He added, “Amazon is deeply grateful to the drivers who deliver Amazon products to meet our customers’ needs. Drivers work for Amazon’s contracted delivery service partners (DSPs) and are not employees of Amazon.

Amazon works with all DSPs to ensure that DSPs and drivers do not feel undue pressure to perform their duties, and requires DSPs to provide a safe working environment and to comply with relevant laws, regulations, and Amazon’s standards. If a driver is found not to be in compliance with Amazon’s standards, we will take appropriate action.

I would think that if they took care not to put undue pressure on their work, they could reduce the number of traffic accidents caused by half-intimidated drivers trying to catch up in order to meet quotas. ……

Mr. Adachi, who works with the hope that multiple labor problems will be corrected as soon as possible, appeals to Amazon users to be aware of the “last mile.

What is happening behind the scenes of what I want and how it will be delivered? I would be happy if people would think about the fact that the lives and livelihoods of many people depend on it.

The subcontracting structure surrounding Amazon’s product delivery, based on interviews with the labor union (Image: Kyodo News)
  • Interview and text by Chie Matsumoto

    Journalist. She mainly covers issues related to social justice, including human rights and labor. She is co-author of "Mass Media Sexual Harassment White Paper" (Bungei Shunju) and "Manga de Wakaru Black Kigyo" (Godo Shuppan), and co-translator of "Striking China" (Sairyusha). Message from the Co-Chairman of Black Lives Matter" (Akashi Shoten) in January 2021.

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