Amazon India has been summoned by India’s Labour Ministry to appear before the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner in Bengaluru. The summon has been issued due to Amazon’s recently announced layoffs, which are allegedly forced, and along the lines of other US big tech companies.
A notice by the Ministry read, “You (Amazon) are therefore requested to attend this office with all relevant records in the matter either personally or through an authorised representative on the aforesaid date and time without fail.” It follows a complaint filed by Pune-based Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate (NITES) – an employee union that works and advocates for the welfare, rights, and benefits of IT & related sector employees.
The complaint alleges that Amazon violated the labour laws of the land and that the company was forcefully removing its staffers, maintaining that employees had been given a deadline of November 30 – under Amazon’s Voluntary Separation Program (VSP) – to quit the company voluntarily.
Under the VSP, the employees who quit on their own will be provided with benefits such as a severance payment that is equal to 22 weeks of base pay, along with one week base salary for every six months of service (rounded to the nearest 6 months) up to a maximum benefit of twenty weeks paid severance. Their medical insurance will be covered for a period of six months as well.
Amazon currently has around 100,000 workers in India, and its plan to lay off 10,000 employees – which represents around 3% of its corporate and tech personnel and less than 1% of its global work force – could potentially affect at least a few hundred employees across multiple divisions in India. In a letter to the Union Labour Minister, NITES president Harpreet Singh Saluja added that the livelihood of thousands had been made vulnerable.
Saluja went on to add that the firings were unethical and illegal under the procedures laid down under Industrial Dispute Act, which informs that the employer cannot, without prior permission from the appropriate government, lay off an employee. And those who have provided a service for at least a year cannot be retrenched unless their employer has served them with a notice of three months in advance and prior permission from the appropriate government.
While the holiday season is usually a lucrative one, such has not been the case this year. And as companies struggle to stay afloat amidst the economic downturn, they have been forced to cut costs by slashing budgets and reducing their headcount. Amazon, like several other tech players, is predicting a decline in sales and growth at the fag end of the year, which acted as another factor for the behemoth to eliminate numerous employees – amounting to nearly 10,000 in its businesses across the globe – across multiple departments. These job cuts are slated to continue into next year as Amazon persists in adjusting to the volatile business conditions.