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Amazon Pays $1.9m to Workers in Saudi Arabia over Illicit Recruitment Fees

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on February 26, 2024, 19:09:08

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Amazon, labour, workforce, human trafficking

Amazon, the e-commerce behemoth, has disbursed $1.9 million to more than 700 employees in Saudi Arabia, compensating them for illicit recruitment fees and other transgressions.

The disbursement follows investigations revealing irregularities in the hiring practices of workers engaged by third-party vendors supporting Amazon's operations in the kingdom, according to a company statement.

In October of the previous year, Amnesty International shed light on the predicament of warehouse employees in Saudi Arabia associated with Amazon. The report outlined how these workers were misled by recruitment agents, deprived of rightful earnings, subjected to abysmal living conditions, and impeded from seeking alternative employment or leaving the country.

"Many of them were highly likely victims of human trafficking," the group asserted.

Responding to these allegations, Amazon enlisted the services of Verité, an independent labor rights expert, to conduct a targeted assessment of migrant worker issues and probe into recruitment practices at two Saudi facilities.

The investigation encompassed interviews with workers contracted through a licensed temporary labour agency, Abdullah Fahad Al-Mutairi Co (AFMCO).

"Verité's findings uncovered breaches of our Supply Chain Standards, including workers bearing recruitment costs to secure employment with AFMCO, inadequate living conditions, discrepancies in contracts and wages, and delays in resolving worker grievances," Amazon stated.

Amazon acknowledged that the labour agency has already taken steps to rectify the most pressing concerns, notably enhancing worker accommodations to meet company standards. Upgrades to living quarters, provision of lockers for personal belongings, and limitations on room occupancy were among the improvements cited.

Subsequent investigations by Amazon scrutinised the practices of all other third-party vendors across Saudi Arabia.

"We identified instances where contracted workers were compelled to cover expenses, including recruitment fees and other costs, to obtain employment—contravening our supply chain standards," the company disclosed.

In response to these findings, Amazon collaborated with human rights specialist Impactt Ltd to calculate reimbursement amounts for affected workers. The assessment factored in reported payments by workers, historical exchange rate fluctuations, compounded inflation, and interest.

 "As a result of this collaborative effort, Amazon disbursed $1.9 million in reimbursements to over 700 contracted workers," the company confirmed.

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