Amazon Ring Call Center Employees – During the coronavirus pandemic, call center workers in the Philippines, contractors in Amazon Ring’s home security department, were asked to report to the office.
Initially, they said they had no choice but to sleep at work so that employees could answer calls from Amazon Ring customers in the U.S. time zone. The condition sparked an Amazon investigation after photos of employees on mattresses and blankets on the floor were released in news reports. So the contractor of Paris-based Teleperformance promised repairs.
But six months after the original complaint surfaced and Teleperformance promised a change, four workers at Amazon’s call center in Cebu, Philippines, spoke with Zelena Plus, who said their working conditions were getting worse. Workers demanded anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, and were fined for violating a confidentiality agreement equivalent to 2 years of annual salary.
Teleperformance, which provides customer support to many other large companies, including Netflix, in recent months has kept people working on Amazon Ring from sleeping on the floor. But the company, which generated revenue of 5.4 billion euros in 2019, is not offering alternative accommodation, workers say.
Some employees say they rent a shared room nearby, which accounts for about 20% of their salary, or sleep with a colleague. Those who could not find the nearest accommodation or could no longer use public transport attempted to use a shuttle service that the company rarely offers. But the shuttle sometimes takes hours to arrive, and after the shift was over, they were exhausted and drove them home, the workers said. Employees say they fear busy shifts when they are able to work, when social distancing is not possible and workstations are not cleaned properly.
Working conditions have heightened fears about Covid-19 among employees whose dozens and hundreds of workers are believed to have had flu-like symptoms. But they said their request to work from home was denied.
“People are afraid because they don’t know who owns it and who doesn’t have it.” Amazon Ring contractor said. “But people have no choice because you’re going to get infected or starve to death.”
Mike Lytle, chief operating officer of Teleperformance Philippines, said that if workers are sick with flu-like symptoms, they are asked to be discharged and see a doctor. The company provides COVID-19-related hospitalizations to health insurance workers and regularly contacts sick employees to “check their well-being.”
The BPO Industrial Employees Network, a workers’ organization for so-called business process outsourced workers in the Philippines, has highlighted the Covid-19 outbreak in call centers across the country and advocated for worker safety since the pandemic began. The group urged the industry to allow employees to work from home or provide accommodation in and around the country, door-to-door transportation, free coronavirus testing, and medical care. It also asked call centres during the pandemic to ban them from sharing headsets and paying risky fees for operating in dangerous conditions.
However, unlike other Teleperformance customers, Amazon Ring does not allow call center employees based in the Philippines to work from home.
Lytle said in an email that “the safety and well-being of our employees will always be our top priority.”
Amazon Ring spokeswoman Emma Daniels said the company would not change its operations in its stay-at-home policy.
“Ring does not allow customer service contractors in the Philippines to work from home to ensure the security of their customers’ data and privacy.” He said, but pointed out that workers cannot access confidential information without the consent of their clients.
The terms of Amazon Ring workers highlight how many tech companies have embraced outsourced labor, providing a humane touch to the platform – often where labor protections have been relaxed and wages are low.
Running call centers and other outsourcing businesses is critical to the Philippine economy. They are estimated to account for 9% of the gross domestic product and 1.2 million jobs.
Thus, when the county was shut down in March, only a few jobs, including police, health care workers, and outsourced workers, were exempt from home quarantine.
From March to April, hundreds of Amazon ring workers slept and worked what Zelena Plus described as “inhumane” in an open letter obtained. The sleep condition was previously reported in April by the Financial Times, and Amazon said it would investigate the situation. Amazon said it conducted an audit of the facility in April to ensure proper sanitation, protective equipment and social distancing for Zelena Plus. “We immediately investigated these new allegations and addressed Teleperformance at the highest level.” A spokesperson for the company said in response to the claims of the workers interviewed for the article.
The company did not provide more details.
After photos of the cramped and miserable situation of workers living in call centers were made public, the Amazon Ring and Teleperformance operations were widely criticized and the photos were submitted to the Philippine Ministry of Labor and Labor, after which Teleperformance stopped preparing to sleep in its office.
Teleperformance offers shuttles to workers, but the company requires some drivers to wait in the office for hours after a shift or walk miles to get to the pick-up point at odd times. One worker explained that he walked for 45 minutes from home to catch the last shuttle to work at 8:10 p.m. for the night shift that didn’t start until 2 a.m. His shift ended at 11 a.m. But the next shuttle through his surroundings wasn’t until 4:30 p.m., and he only had a few hours left to fall asleep before going to work on the next shuttle.
“If you’re the one who makes the family’s livelihood, you need that money.” The worker said.
Teleperformance said it has significantly improved its shuttle service for Cebu employees since the outbreak began. He also said that it helps staff find accommodation from outside.
Despite Amazon’s demands for change, all four employees interviewed said that Teleperformance did not disinfect shared workstations and computers between shifts. Housekeeping staff clean the tables regularly, but only with buckets of water and towels. Social distancing, they say, is only possible on less busy shifts. However, this is not the case during busy nights with overlapping shifts.
TelePerformance denied the workers’ claims. The company said its offices are half full to allow for social distancing and provide masks and face coverings to all employees. Teleperformance adds that employees’ workplaces are cleaned twice a day.
However, workers and management seem to agree that Amazon Ring workers have been ill in recent months. Three employees said dozens were recently sick in an office with hundreds of employees. This includes a team of about 15 people who were both ill and sent home unpaid in late May and early June. Two employees said that one team leader who tested positive for COVID-19 was hospitalized for about a month. Employees said an Amazon Ring call center field manager in his 40s died during the epidemic and did not know why.
“I was in a panic,” said a worker who took leave in June for fear of contracting the virus. “He’s always walking on the floor and he looks very healthy.”
The employee said many of the employees had coughed. However, if you are infected with COVID-19, you will be sent home without pay for two weeks, so you are afraid to go to the hospital.
One worker said, “You have no choice.” “If we don’t work, we will starve.”
Teleperformance’s Lytle said the company could not go into details about the deceased manager, but added that “my heart goes out to the member of the Teleperformance family we lost.”
He said other sick employees were sent home and had health insurance to cover hospital stays. “We contact our employees regularly to check their health,” he said.
He said the company checks all employees daily and asks them to go home if they develop coronavirus-like symptoms. The company said it provided paid leave according to years of service that “exceeds Philippine industry standards”, which employees could use if they became ill. Teleperformance has confirmed that it is not providing additional sick leave pay to workers who show symptoms and have to stay at home for quarantine.
Teleperformance’s Amazon Ring contractors are taking great risks by talking about working conditions due to nondisclosure agreements in their employment contracts. Violation of the confidentiality clause can result in a fine equivalent to about two years’ wages. A copy of this Agreement by zelena Plus.
According to the contract, the customer support staff receive 21,500 Philippine Pesos, which is equivalent to about $444 per month. “Loss of payment” due to breach of confidentiality agreement was 500,000 pesos.
Lytle said confidentiality agreements are “standard business practice” and the company has set up an internal hotline for employees to report Covid-19 safety concerns without fear of reprisal.
When zelena Plus told Amazon Ring spokeswoman Daniels about her condition, she said, “We are investigating these allegations. These and other forms of retaliation against workers violate our Code and will not be tolerated. will,” he said.