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Amazon is using algorithms with minimal human intervention to fire flex workers.

Amazon Flex drivers deliver bulk packages in Cambridge  Massachusetts on December 18, 2018.
expand / Amazon Flex drivers deliver bulk packages in Cambridge Massachusetts on December 18, 2018.

locked door inclement weather and bad selfies All of which led to drivers reporting that they were fired from bots that apparently used human resources for Amazon̵

7;s flexible delivery program.

Millions of independent contractors are in need of a system that Amazon knows is a problem. According to a new report from Bloomberg, though, serious bugs were fixed early. But an important problem remains according to the article. Amazon reportedly isn’t worried about the hiccups and bad news it results as long as there are enough drivers to replace those whose accounts were accidentally terminated.

“Management knows this will make the bed bad,” a former system engineer told Bloomberg. “That’s how they really put it to the meeting. The only question is how much shit do we need?”

The e-commerce giant started using Flex systems in 2015 to handle the rapidly growing packaging and two-hour delivery of Prime Now services. Today it also coordinates deliveries for Whole Foods grocery orders (if you want to know the details of how the system works when it’s up and running, Ars’ Sam Machkovech had been to Gonzo a few years ago and worked in shifts. ) During the pandemic, the Flex program became an increasingly important part. of the retailer’s logistics program So much so that Flex drivers are offered at least 20 hours of work in December 2020.

flexible employment performance report And all dismissals are handled by the software. with minimal human intervention Drivers register and upload the required documents through a smartphone app. which they also registered for shifts Coordinate delivery and report problems It’s also a way for drivers to keep track of their ratings. They fall into four large groups—excellent, excellent, fair, or risky. Flexible drivers are evaluated based on variables. including on-time performance details such as whether the parcel is sufficiently hidden from the road and the driver’s ability to respond to customer requests.

Amazon has debunked the idea that drivers are being treated unfairly. Amazon spokeswoman Kate Kudrna told Bloomberg, “We have invested heavily in technology and resources to provide drivers with visibility into the status and eligibility of continuing deliveries. and reviewing all driver appeals.”

opaque system

Former Flex drivers interviewed by Bloomberg and reports of drivers posted on forums all over the internet reveal an obscure system that often leaves them guessing as to why their ratings have dropped or why. Their account was therefore terminated. As a result, they effectively quit their jobs.

Neddra Lira, a former driver who spoke to Bloomberg, said her score jumped after she had to return a package at a warehouse when she found a nail in the tire. She could only increase her rating to “Excellent” in the coming weeks only to have her account terminated for violating the Terms of Service. She appealed the cancellation. But Amazon doesn’t budge.

Another Bloomberg driver spoke with, Stephen Normandin, having trouble delivering parcels to an apartment building in Phoenix before dawn. the door is still locked office is closed and the parcel recipient does not answer the phone In another apartment, the Amazon locker wouldn’t open for him. His ratings suffered from those issues too. And it took him six weeks to recover—only to be terminated a few days later because of his score. “Dropped below acceptable level”

The reason Amazon provides flexible layoffs doesn’t always match the actual reasons for layoffs. One driver posted on reddit said they were canceled because, according to the Flex app, the selfies they took to verify their identity at the start of the shift did not match the driver’s license photo they uploaded when setting up their account. The driver didn’t buy it. But because during the shift they worked before being fired. Packages assigned to them by the app are not available at the Prime Now depot, so they can’t be shipped.

“The termination email I received this morning was sent at 1:17 a.m. but at 1:06 a.m. eleven minutes earlier. I also received a generic email reminding me that I had to accept all orders,” the person wrote. “I think this is no coincidence. and even if the cancellation email only states ‘picture’ as the reason for cancellation But I still stated that because These ‘missed packages’.”

face recognition problem

Amazon began slating selfies in 2019 so that multiple people wouldn’t share a single account. This practice may help prevent others from using other accounts to steal packages. But there are other drivers who use this practice for more legitimate purposes. This includes faster delivery of packages. which may increase their rank or to deliver goods without purchasing a parking ticket

Flex drivers forums are full of posts from people complaining that their accounts were terminated because their selfies weren’t. “Meets the requirements for the Amazon Flex program.” The photos appear to be verified by an image recognition algorithm. People who lose weight or shave their beards or cut their hair and have a problem. Like a driver trying to change shifts at night. Low light can result in low quality selfies.

Drivers who believe they have been unfairly terminated have ten days to file a claim to have their account reinstated, but at that time they will not be able to work shifts. If the driver loses the appeal They can ask for arbitration. Despite the $200 cost, for many drivers making between $18 and $30 an hour on Flex, it’s not worth it. For Amazon, however, the botched termination doesn’t seem to reduce interest in the program. Flex In May alone, the Flex app was downloaded 200,000 times, according to SensorTower.

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