Grantees uncover worker exploitation and abuse in Saudi Arabia; Amazon vows to change practices

Matt Rota/The Guardian

A group of Nepali workers were subjected to abusive working and living conditions at Amazon warehouses in Saudi Arabia, a team of reporters found. Forty-eight of the 54 Nepali workers interviewed said recruiters misled them about the terms of their employment. All 54 say they were required to pay recruiting fees – ranging from $830 to $2,300 – that far exceed what’s allowed by Nepal’s government and run afoul of American and United Nations standards. During their time in Saudi Arabia, the workers said they were paid a fraction of what direct hires for Amazon’s Saudi warehouses earn, because labor supply firms were taking big cuts. Some workers said that after they’d been laid off from Amazon, their labor supply company sought to squeeze more money out of them, taking advantage of Saudi laws that give employers broad powers to control foreign workers’ freedom of movement. Amazon acknowledged that some workers at its Saudi facilities had been mistreated and the company would take steps to put stronger controls in place. The story about the workers, supported by the Fund, was reported by Pramod Acharya and Michael Hudson in The Guardian and is part of a joint investigation by the Guardian US, ICIJ, NBC News and Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism.