Coupang’s passive response to worker deaths sparks criticism

Mar 10, 2021, 09:30 am

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AsiaToday reporter Lim Yoo-jin 

South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang faces growing criticism over its harsh working conditions as some of its delivery workers died from apparent overwork. 

While Coupang has expressed its “deepest condolences to the deceased,” it stresses that their workers’ workload are not heavy due to its increased number of workers and investment artificial intelligence (AI) facilities. The e-commerce giant, whose corporate value is estimated at US$50 billion (about 56 trillion won), is gearing up for a public listing in the U.S. stock market this week. However, it seems difficult to avoid criticism for responding passively to the issue of improving the working environment. 

According to the police, a 48-year-old Coupang delivery driver, surnamed Lee, was found dead at his low-cost accommodation facility in southeastern Seoul on Saturday afternoon. Lee started as a contract worker last year and worked five days a week from 9 pm to 7 am.

Another Coupang employee, who managed delivery workers, was found dead on the same day. The cause of his death has not been identified. Taekbae Union, which represents couriers here, claimed that both cases are deaths from overwork, demanding Coupang for an apology, compensation and measures to prevent a recurrence of similar cases.

The labor union said that Lee’s death was caused by cerebral hemorrhage and a cardiac disorder, which are typical symptoms of sudden death by overwork. “We have found from the bereaved family that he did not have any underlying illnesses,” Kang Min-wook, the head of the union, said in a radio show on Tuesday. “We can assume from early autopsy results that his death was caused by overwork,” Kang said.

The Coupang delivery workers of late-night task force typically works 10 hours a day from 9 pm to 7 am for five days a week. They are given an hour of unpaid rest hour each day, but the majority of them are forced to work, leading them to handle an excessive workload of 50 hours a week. 

The labor union said that Lee earned about 2.8 million won (US$2,480) per month, which is just a little over minimum wage. “His salary was too small for the hard work he did,” the union said. 

Coupang is growing rapidly, stressing its “Rocket Delivery” network which provides same-day or next-day delivery. As a result, the workers’ poor working conditions and overwork issues have become serious problems. 

“Many foreign media outlets get shocked to find out Coupang using terms like ‘rocket, ‘late night’, ‘bullet’, and ‘dawn’ to highlight its quick delivery service,” Kang said. “Many South Koreans don’t really know the value of workers. I hope this will be the first step in improving such ‘Rocket Delivery’ and ‘Dawn Delivery’.”

Seven Coupang employees have died over the past year as a result of overwork. Coupang has achieved remarkable growth and it must now fulfill its social responsibilities that fits its size. It is time for Coupang to come up with solutions to improve its working environment.

#Coupang #overwork #delivery #death 
Copyright by Asiatoday