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Amazon to hire 50,000 temporary workers in India to cater to surge in online shopping amid COVID-19



Following the relaxation in norms allowing e-commerce companies to resume deliveries, Amazon’s Indian subsidiary is on a hiring spree for 50,000 temporary workers to meet a surge in online shopping in the country.

After close to two months of nation-wide lockdown and curbs on shopping malls and retail outlets being still prevalent due to rising cases of the COVID-19, the Indian government last week allowed the resumption of e-commerce activities for both essential and non-essential deliveries across the country.

“We want to continue helping customers all over India get everything they need so they can continue to practice social distancing. To enable this, we are creating work opportunities for close to 50,000 seasonal associates across our fulfilment and delivery network. This will also keep as many people as possible working during this pandemic while providing a safe work environment for them,” said Akhil Saxena, vice president, Customer Fulfilment Operations, APAC, MENA & LATAM, Amazon on the company’s blog.

These associates will be deployed across Amazon India’s fulfilment and delivery network and assist them to pick, pack, ship and deliver customers’ orders placed for sellers more efficiently, said the blog.

India, which now ranks 11th among all countries in terms of over 125,000 confirmed cases, has seen a huge migration of workers from metro cities to the hinterland leading to shortage of workforce in manufacturing and services activity.

According to London-based data analytics firm GlobalData, the pandemic will push India’s e-commerce market to 92 billion U.S. dollars by 2023

“While the current lockdown in the country has led to the overall decline in consumer spending, this is being partially offset by a rise in online spending, as wary consumers stay at home and use online channels to purchase goods,” said Ravi Sharma, banking and payments lead analyst at GlobalData.



Amazon Prime snags Bollywood premieres, angering theatre owners



Amazon Prime Video, Amazon’s streaming service, will screen several new Indian films originally meant for release in theatres this month, sparking protests from cinema owners as the novel coronavirus outbreak upends Bollywood.

India has been under a strict lockdown since March 25 to battle the virus, leaving about 9,500 theatres shut and depriving Bollywood of box-office revenue.

So producers of seven films, including two Bollywood movies starring A-listers, such as Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan, will stream the movies directly on Amazon Prime Video following a deal, the company said in a statement on Friday.

“Gulabo Sitabo”, a family comedy with Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, which was set for release in April, will now stream directly on Amazon Prime Video in June, as will “Shakuntala Devi”, a biopic of the Indian mathematician of the same name.

Two of India’s biggest cinema chains, Inox and PVR, which were meant to screen “Gulabo Sitabo”, bemoaned the decision.

INOX will be constrained to examine its options, and reserves all rights, including taking retributive measures in dealing with such fair-weather friends,” Inox said in a statement.

The producers’ guild said the comments from Inox were “abrasive and unconstructive”.

PVR Chief Executive Kamal Gianchandani told the Indian Express on Thursday after Amazon announced it would stream “Gulabo Sitabo” that he was disappointed by the news.

The other five films in the Amazon deal were productions from the prolific southern-language film industry.

Streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix had in the past signed deals with Indian studios for digital rights, but mainstream releases have always prioritised theatrical revenues first.

In China, regulators aim to protect the industry by enforcing rules to stop movies premiering online, in particular by strictly managing “theatrical window period” requirements, a period for movies to be screened in cinemas before they could be shown elsewhere.

But analysts said the Amazon deal in India was likely the beginning of a broader trend, as lingering fears of coronavirus infection and lower discretionary spending keep people away from multiplexes and single-screen cinemas.

“There will be a reset in the way that producers and studios think about their portfolios,” Vijay Subramaniam, director and head, Content, Amazon Prime Video, India, told Reuters in an interview.

Subramaniam said Amazon, which competes in India with Netflix and Disney’s Hotstar, did not see acquisition costs going up for the streaming platform.

Bollywood is a huge draw for India’s burgeoning online audiences, who – driven by cheap data and smartphones – are spending more time watching content online than ever before.

The media reported that more producers in Bollywood and the southern-language industry were in talks with streaming platforms for direct-to-digital releases.

Last month, theatre owners in the southern state of Tamil Nadu threatened to boycott well-known actor Suriya over his decision to stream his film on a digital platform.

That film, “Ponmagal Vandhal” is part of the seven-film slated that Amazon announced on Friday.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ese E. Ekama (NAN)

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Book on immigrants in America by Mongolian author becomes Amazon bestseller




A book on immigrants in America has become one of the best-selling books on U.S. e-commerce platform Amazon.

“Almost American: A Mongolian girl’s American Story” by Billie Tuvshinbayar went for sale on Amazon on April 12.

“My book became number one in new release category on Amazon on April 12, the day it was released. Three days later, I was thrilled to see that my book became one of the best-selling books,” Tuvshinbayar told Xinhua.

The author immigrated from Mongolia to the United States when she was 19 years old, more than 10 years ago.

“After moving from Mongolia to the United States, I noticed that many Americans held negative beliefs about immigrants. Anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise in the country in recent years, especially during elections,” Tuvshinbayar said.

“Therefore, as an immigrant, I decided to write the book to show the positive effects of immigrants in America, give Americans a positive picture of ‘America is a country of immigrants’ and provide them with a better understanding of immigrants’ great contribution to the U.S. economy,” she added.

Another purpose of the book is to encourage immigrants to be proud of their traditions and backgrounds, and to live and work successfully in the United States by being law-abiding.

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French court slams Amazon over virus measures, orders partial halt



A French court on Tuesday slammed internet retail giant Amazon for failing to safeguard its workers properly against the coronavirus and ordered it to temporarily halt many activities.

Amazon France Logistique had clearly not paid proper heed to its obligations concerning staff health and safety, judges in the Paris suburb of Nanterre ruled.

Amazon’s risk assessment for Covid-19 was inadequate, the court said after the Union Syndicale Solidaires trade union sought an injunction against the company.

The court ordered Amazon to carry out a risk assessment at all its French warehouses and implement all necessary health and safety measures in conjunction with staff representatives.

Until that has been done the company must stop all activities at its warehouses except goods intake and the preparation and dispatch of orders for food, hygiene and medical goods.


Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Tajudeen Atitebi (NAN)

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French minister slams Amazon for “unacceptable’’ pressure on workers



French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has slammed internet retail giant Amazon over allegations it was putting staff under pressure to work in hygiene conditions they felt were unsuitable amid the spread of the coronavirus.

“These forms of pressure are unacceptable. I will say so to Amazon,’’ Le Maire told France Inter radio.

Le Maire praised employees across the country who were continuing to work, and urged employers to take the time to discuss health precautions with their staff.

He said if companies took half a day or a day to agree precautions with their workforce, it would be time well spent.

According to research firm EMarketer, Amazon accounts for 38 per cent of all U.S. online retail sales.

More than 150 million people worldwide pay for an Amazon Prime membership (119 dollars a year, or 59 dollars a year for students), which includes same-day or one-day delivery, but that benefit is being overwhelmed by the disruption, analysts said.

Amazon also said that it’s prioritising shipments of medical supplies, household staples, and other products that were in high demand due to the pandemic. Items deemed nonessential will have to wait.

The e-commerce giant told third-party merchants that use its platform which account for about 58 per cent of all goods sold on its site that it would stop accepting their shipments to its warehouses if their products weren’t on that priority list, at least through April 5.

Amazon said those merchants could still sell on Amazon but would be responsible for storing and shipping the goods themselves, a task for which many are not equipped.

The result: Customers ordering certain electronics, toys, apparel, and other goods on Amazon are looking at deliveries that could take days or more, even if those items already are sitting in Amazon’s warehouses.

Amazon said it was hiring an additional 100,000 U.S. employees to meet “the surge in demand from people relying on Amazon’s service during this stressful time.’’

The Seattle company also said it was raising its U.S. hourly workers’ pay by 2 dollars an hour through April from its current rate of 15 dollars an hour or more, depending on the region, as they handle the onslaught of orders.

Edited By: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim

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Amazon’s Italian workers strike over lack of coronavirus safeguards



Amazon workers in Italy were on strike on Tuesday as unions accused the online retailer of failing to protect its staff against the threat of the novel coronavirus.


The strike started late Monday at a warehouse in Castel San Giovanni, in the northern Piacenza province. The area is one of the worst affected by the outbreak.


In a joint statement, the Cisl, Cgil, Uil and Ugl unions accused Amazon of failing to implement additional worker protection measures with the Italian government agreed on Saturday with unions.


These include the right to be given masks and other protective gear if workers cannot be kept apart by a safe distance, and extra sanitary measures in the workplace.


“In the Piacenza hub, workers asked for masks 10 days ago and to date none have been handed out,’’ Cristian Sesena of the Filcams Cgil union told dpa.


The strike will continue indefinitely, he said. One-day strike had taken place in two other Amazon warehouses in the regions of Piedmont and Lazio, he added.


For its part, Amazon said it was following rigorously guidelines from the government and health authorities, and assured that the welfare of our workers, suppliers and customers comes first.


For example, the company said it is no longer asking its staff to pick up a signature from customers after delivering packages, to avoid any close contact.


Italy is the worst-affected country in the world outside China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated.

On Monday, it reported a cumulative total 27,980 cases and 2,158 deaths. 

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Felix Ajide



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Amazon says it is prioritising household staples, medical goods



Online retail giant Amazon is changing the way it works, and is now prioritising household staples and medical goods over other products that it ships out.

“We are temporarily prioritising household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfilment centres.

“So we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers,’’ a statement from the company said.

Amazon confirmed it was seeing core items going out of stock.

Items like hand sanitisers and cleansers have been hard to find online.

The retailer has been taking measures to prevent sellers from engaging in price gouging.

The new measures will be in effect through April 5.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Emmanuel Yashim

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Palestine protests Amazon’s alleged discriminatory shipping policy



Palestine on Wednesday sent a letter to e-commerce giant Amazon company in protest against its alleged discriminatory shipping policy favouring residents in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The letter, signed by both Palestinian Minister of Finance Shukry Bishara and Minister of Economy Khaled al-Oseily, called on Amazon to retract its shipping policy towards the West Bank.

“We were astonished to learn of Amazon’s policy of offering free shipping to customers in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and in Israel, while charging Palestinians shipment fees of as much as 24 dollars,’’ the duo said in the letter.

The leaders noted that Amazon’s spokesperson confirmed the policy and said that the company would provide free shipping if the customers would list Israel as their country.

“It is unacceptable for Amazon to flaunt international law and policy in this way,’’ they added.

In November, Amazon began providing free shipping service to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank for orders of 49 dollars or more.

However, Palestinians in the West Bank, who put their addresses in the list of Palestinian territories, need to pay for shipment.

Israeli settlement activity is considered illegal under international law and has been one of the major hurdles to the stalled peace talks between Palestine and Israel since 2014.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Emmanuel Yashim

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Pacino turns Nazi hunter in TV series debut for Amazon



In a screen career spanning more than five decades, it has taken Al Pacino until now to act in a television series.

He is starring in “Hunters”, a new show for Amazon Prime that is due to be released on Friday.

The series, about a band of Nazi hunters in New York in the 1970s, is inspired by a true story – a “love letter” to the show creator’s late grandmother who survived Holocaust.

“I never did this sort of long 10 episodes. So it’s like doing like, I think, about a 12-hour film because it is about 12 hours of film,” Pacino, who turns 80 in April, told Reuters.

“This is a crazy story, too, by the way … Crazy horror, really scary stuff.

“And also heavy, deep, tragic emotion … it runs the gamut,” said Pacino, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at this month’s Academy Awards for his role in “The Irishman”.

Show creator David Weil said he wanted to tell his grandmother’s story, the experiences during the war that she had told him about as a child.

“At such a young age, they felt like the stuff of comic books and superheroes,” he said.

“The onus is now on us, on the next generation, to continue their story and further their story. And so ‘Hunters’ is really a love letter to her.

“It’s this desire to propel her story forward into this next generation and to educate people on what the Holocaust is and what people went through so that we can try and prevent this from ever happening again.”

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ali Baba-Inuwa


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Pope Francis refuses to open door to married priests in Amazon



Pope Francis, on Wednesday refused to endorse a proposal to allow married men to serve as priests in the Amazon region, in what would have been a special exception to the celibacy rule for clergy.

In an October summit known as a synod, Amazon bishops called for admitting married men into the priesthood, only in their region, to make up for an acute lack of clergy in remote rainforest areas.

In a document marking his official response to the summit, Francis makes no mention of this, and also rules out letting non-priests give the key sacraments of the Holy Communion and confession.

An exception to the celibacy rule for priests, albeit limited to the Amazon region, would have likely enraged traditionalists, who already see Francis’ papacy as too liberal.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Maureen Atuonwu

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