Amazon. “We were thrown like dogs”

E-commerce, a booming sector, has a bleak side: More than 40 million French people order online every year, but are often oblivious to the fate reserved for the army of couriers who bring them their parcels. Two years ago, the giant Amazon set up a depot in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray (Seine-Maritime). Every day, parcels shipped from all over the country are classified and then delivered to the region by van. “There are established clubs, but also a whole range of small businesses, sometimes short-lived, says Fabien Leseigneur, of the CGT Fapt. Some are set up for “rush hour” periods, such as the end of the year celebrations, and then pack up. A few weeks ago, employees of one of these companies knocked on our office door… Nine employees who had just been fired over the phone. Eight had no papers. †

“1,000 euros for 23 days of work”

They were employed by a small company, Lumina Services. Workers from Mali, Ivory Coast or Guinea, who fled their country by traveling through Italy, where they got their driver’s license before trying their luck in France. Once they arrived in France they built up all kinds of odd jobs, often in the delivery sector where the needs are enormous and the bosses are not always attentive. One fine day, some of them, who were working in the Paris area at the time, got wind of the creation of a small parcel delivery company looking for workers for its Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray site. In order to entice the candidates, they would have been dangled with a promise of regularization through employment. Ousmane (1) agreed to tell us his story, on condition of anonymity.

An apartment where twelve people are crammed together

Born in Ivory Coast in 1980, he arrived in France in April 2017 after traveling through Italy: “I have been delivering for three years. In October 2021, while I was working in Paris, an acquaintance told us that a manager was looking for good delivery people near Rouen. It was Lumina Services. On October 13, we met the manager, who said she had found us accommodation in Canteleu (nearby town, about 6 kilometers from Saint-Étienne-d u-Rouvray – Ed). †

In terms of ‘living’ it is an apartment where twelve people are crammed together. As for the working conditions, according to Ousmane, these have little to do with what was initially described: “We were promised a salary of 1,685 euros per month for working 15 days. To my surprise, the first month I received a check for 1,000 euros for 23 days of work! The manager explained to us that she had no choice, as the company had just started up and was short of money. But the situation repeated itself from month to month. And every time we have s withdrawn from the salary, several hundred euros per month…”

The promise of regularization was never fulfilled. The workers eventually find the CGT and start a strike to get payment of their unpaid wages, as well as regularization. “Some have received the equivalent of 700 euros for a month’s work, assures Fabien Leseigneur. Overtime was not paid, which is unfortunately common in an industry where people often work 60 hours a week and paid 35. We demand payment of what is due and regularization at the prefecture. †

The Lumina Services leader confines himself to stating that “If there are things to blame (him), it’s up to the authorities to act”76 News, Apr 29). Amazon management responded in a statement: “The delivery companies that Amazon works with hire and manage their own teams. We are adamant that they must comply with applicable law, as well as the Amazon Supplier Code of Conduct. We are currently investigating (…) and will take appropriate action if our delivery partner does not follow the rules it’s not the requirements. †

Not enough to appease the anger of Ousmane and his colleagues: “I worked until 2 am, we all worked very hard. All this so that one day we will be verbally fired, after asking for our rights. We were dumped like dogs, without further explanation…”

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