Interview with a worker about working conditions, humiliations and abuses of bosses at eMAG, Romania. This interview was taken by Vladimir Borţun in January 2012 and it was published on Critic Atac (a leftist internet platform).
Vladimir Borţun: Where are you working?
Employee (AE): At ‘Dante Internaţional’ company, known as ‘eMAG’ as well.
VB: Since when?
AE: Since 2009.
VB: What are you doing there?
AE: I am working at one of their warehouses. I work on PC and operate with bills. I’m doing also other things: I print bills, I sort them and I give them to my colleagues to find the merchandise; I guide them to find the merchandise.
VB: I guess you have a work contract?
AE: Yes, of course.
VB: What is written in your contract about work time? How many days per week and how many hours per day?
AE: 5 days per week, from Monday to Friday and 8 hours per day and one more hour for break. When I get hire they told me – without written in the contract – that, once at 5 weeks I will have to work another 2 hours, Saturday.
VB: Except this, that was not stipulated into your contract, did ever happened to you to work more than the time that was stipulated in your contract?
AE: In the first 3 month it happened at every 2 or 3 days to work 1 or 2 hours over shift.
VB: Did they ask you this?
AE: I had to finish the work, till the last order.
VB: The work was given at the beginning of the day or the work was added during the day?
AE: The work is added during the day. They had no limit and they were trying to push as much as possible. After 3 month of working there the things started to become worst.
VB: What do you mean?
AE: I mean that we started to work more over shifts, we were called at work Saturday and Sunday to finish the work that was not done over the week.
VB: Why was the work not finished during the week?
AE: Because of them – there were simply to many orders and we were to few and they didn’t knew how to organize the work.
VB: Did they force you to come in weekend?
AE: Basically, yes, because they let us understand that if we refuse to come at work in weekend, they fire us or simply they won’t sign a new contract.
VB: Did ever happened to someone to be fired for refusing to come at work in weekend?
AE: Yes, there was around 3 cases. They canceled their work contracts. Others were just relegated from their positions.
VB: How were they justifying these measures?
AE: The reason it was for indiscipline. Anyway, if they want to fire you, they can find a reason.
VB: How often it happened to stay over shift?
AE: Well, this year I was doing over shifts every day, when I was both – in the first shift or in the second shift.
VB: What is the work program for the first shift?
AE: From 9 to 18:30.
VB: And often – how much do you stay at work?
AE: Till 21:00 or 22:00. I was working 12 or 13 hours.
VB: What about the second shift?
AE: In the second shift you have to stay from 12:00 to 21:00, but in the last 2 month I worked till 3 or 4 in the morning, almost every day. Until 2 month ago, they ask us to stay only till the midnight, that is 12 hours of work. Now we stay 13, 14 or 15 hours to finish the orders.
VB: Day by day?
AE: Yes, day by day.
VB: Seven days per week?
AE: Seven days per week.
VB: Did they ask you to come Saturday and Sunday?
AE: Yes, but because we are very tired they keep us only 12 hours in
VB: How many weeks did you worked seven days from seven?
AE: One month and a half.
VB: One month and a half day by day?
AE: Yes, day by day.
VB: And how many hours did you worked every day in general?
AE: 12 hours.
VB: And how many hours did you worked the most?
AE: 18 hours.
VB: 18 hours in a day work?
AE: 18 hours! It was in a Tuesday. I was at 9 in the morning at work till 3 in the morning next day. I reach home at 4:30 in the morning and I woke up at 8 o’clock to return to work at 10 o’clock. And there I worked for 12 hours and in the next 2 days – Thursday and Friday – I was working according to the usual program of 9 hours.
VB: Does this program affected you physically?
AE: Yes, I am exhausted. Sometime I can’t even get up from the bed.
VB: Did you had any colleagues that suffered because of this work program?
AE: Yes, some colleagues that are working in the warehouse are now having varices. Another colleague that is working at packages, he was sick off for 2 month, because he had water on the knee from too much work. Another colleague – in the middle of the night – was suffering a blocked back and they took him to the hospital. There are many things. Another one had to make some spinal infiltrations because he had problems with his spine from lifting heavy things. A girl collapsed and they barely agreed to sent her home with a car but they didn’t called for an ambulance. Most of the problems are with the back from lifting heavy things.
VB: Did your colleagues get some sick off days in order to recuperate them self?
AE: Yes, but when they come back to work they get punished: they were either relegated from their position and put them to work more or they was fired – their contracts was no longer prolonged.
VB: Can you give me an example?
AE: Yes, the guy that I was talking that he made water at knee – he was sick off for 2 month. He didn’t answered the phone during his medical recuperation, but he announced that he can’t come back at work and told them about the causes why he can’t come at work. He bring to Accountancy (service) all the papers that were required, including the papers that proved his illness. When he come back to work they reproached him that he didn’t answer the phone and that everything is a lie – that he paid the doctor to give him a long sick off certificate. So they terminate his contract.
VB: They had any prove that he bribed the doctor?
AE: No, of course they didn’t had any prove.
VB: But you know he had water at knee for real?
AE: Yes, he had water at knee. He even come back earlier to work, because the doctor told him to stay home for 2 or 3 month and that he should not walk and he should not stay on his feet to much.
VB: There are work accidents? What are the safety conditions there?
AE: As much as I know until now there was nothing serious but the safety is bad and if you count the fatigue – then the risk for accidents is growing. Do you think that a stacker driver after 14 or 15 hours of work can concentrate well? After so much work he get tired and become careless. You can’t tell what can happen.
VB: Let’s came back to the over shifts – did they pay your extra work?
AE: They pay, but if you don’t stay over shift they won’t pay the hours that they have to pay you already. For example, if yesterday I worked 5 extra hours and today I don’t stay over the program, then they won’t pay me the hours that I worked yesterday.
VB: So, this punishment it is because you want to go home at the end of the program and because you don’t want to make overtime?
AE: Yes, exactly.
VB: And this punishment is affecting only the bonuses or also your salary?
AE: They take only from bonuses, they never take from salary. But those bonuses are yours, it is your work.
VB: This is the only reason for cutting your bonuses?
AE: No! There are other things also. At our workplace some merchandise is stolen from time to time. Even if there are video cameras everywhere, the merchandise is stolen but nobody is caught, only exceptionally. Because of this situation to cover what was loss they take from our bonuses. So, basically we work over the program and leave from workplace exhausted to pay for what was stolen. In fact, I think they don’t even try to catch the thieves. It looks like this situation suits them – to put us work more over
the program without a proper payment.
VB: There are other kind of punishments if you don’t remain over the program at work?
AE: Yes, they relegate you or they give you more to work or even they fire you. They tell you that you should not come back tomorrow.
VB: Because you don’t stay over the program?
AE: Yes, because you don’t stay over the program. This is already a rule at eMAG.
VB: By the way, you said earlier that you have an hour lunch break every day. They respect this break?
AE: No! If you have to take your break at 1 o’clock or at 3 o’clock – that depends of your shift – they give you another hour or 2 hours to work more till they allow you to take your break. That is very often and it happened to all the employees.
VB: Did any of you tried to express your dissatisfaction over all these?
AE: Yes, and those that tried that was punished. They get smaller bonuses.
VB: …for the work they already did?
AE: Yes! They also can simply to cut all the bonuses. Sometime they swear you or they threaten to beat you. There was a situation with one of the team leaders that put his hand into a subordinate’s neck because he contradicted him.
VB: You told me that some employees were fired because they didn’t wanted to make extra shifts. There was other kind of dismissals for reasons that looks unfair to you?
AE: Yes! The last case was 2 weeks ago when the owner of eMAG – Iulian Stanciu – was coming in inspection. He saw a boy from ‘Reception’ staying and not working in that moment and he told to the most important team leader: “Look, if you see him staying you fire him. Look at that one! Fire him!” After a few hours there was a meeting – without Iulian Stanciu – because he was leaving, and the manager of the warehouse fired my colleague because that is what was told to him to do.
VB: But he was just staying and he was not working?
AE: He was staying because he was waiting for a car to come in front of the ramp.
VB: That means that he had nothing to work in that moment?
AE: Yes, there was nothing to do but wait. He was waiting a car to continue his work. And he was a serious guy. He was working for 2 month and a half and he had a 3 month contract, so he had only a few days to wait for a new contract. But they break the contract.
VB: What is the general attitude of the bosses over the subordinates?
AE: Very unpleasant. They scream, swear, offend, threat with beating.
VB: Did ever escalated to fight?
AE: Only among colleagues. In addition some team leaders that put their hand into the subordinates neck. Otherwise they swear our mothers, they threat with beating…
VB: But these bosses of yours, are they also being in turn swear by their bosses?
AE: No, no, no! Among them there is respect.
VB: Which them? What is their position?
AE: Team leaders. One is a chief at warehouse, another one is chief on ‘collecting’, another one is chief on packing, another one is chief on billing and another one is chief at reception.
VB: How many people are you there?
AE: Some time ago we were around 80 but now, for a while because there are many orders – the company is growing and it is the most important company on the market – it is the best online shop from Romania and East Europe, as profits I mean…
VB: …the best within its field of activity or generally speaking – the best?
AE: Generally speaking. So we rise up to 125 – 130 persons.
VB: At your workplace?
VB: And overall, how many are you?
AE: I don’t know exactly. From what I’ve heard – we are more than 500.
VB: How do you get along with your colleagues?
AE: We are not an unite collective. Everyone is on their own. There is no solidarity.
VB: Why do you think all these happen?
AE: Because they want to stay in good relations with chiefs. Team leaders ask their subordinates to tell them if someone is not making his or her job well, and they promise to give them in exchange some bigger bonuses. Matter of fact – denunciation is encouraged.
VB: Is there at eMAG any form of union organization?
AE: No, there is not such a thing yet. If it were like that maybe they would have respect our rights.
VB: There was any attempt to organize workers?
AE: No. At our workplace, at the warehouse, once, we wanted to make a group of 20 or 30 persons from all the departments, to ask for our rights in the name of every employee and to quite our jobs if they would not accept our requests. That is want we wanted but we couldn’t do it.
AE: To the most of us because we feared. They have to pay rent, they have families and they depend to much on their wage they get from eMAG. They can’t quit their jobs so they can accept anything.
VB: If you would have succeeded then what would have been your demands?
AE: To respect our schedule, a wage rise and more respect for employee.
VB: By the way – with this working conditions you are telling me here – how much do you gain?
AE: 1.400 Lei (that is around 320 Euros)
VB: How much do you reach with bonuses?
AE: With bonuses included – if I don’t get penalized – I reach around 2.000 Lei
VB: If you would have to choose for real, would you do overtime?
AE: I would do overtime if I would have a bigger salary and bigger bonuses and if would exist any respect for us and for our work that we make for the company. But I am sure that I wouldn’t do so many extra hours.
VB: So – you are making all these overtime because you are threaten?
VB: They threat you that if you don’t make extra hours they cut your bonuses?
AE: Yes – or we are simply fired.
VB: Or you are relegated?
AE: Yes, also relegated.
VB: Should I understand, from everything you told me – that at eMAG it is rather bad than good?
AE: Yes, that’s for sure.
VB: Then, someone can ask you – why don’t you leave for another job?
AE: Because I simply had no time to look for another job, because of the schedule and because of all this hard work. More than that – we don’t have access to our phones as long as we are at work, except during 3 breaks of 10 minutes each and during our lunch break that last for a half hour. How can I look for another job especially when they call you at work also in weekends? Anyway, for them it is not big deal if you leave because they can find someone else to do your work. They can replace you in the next second.
Please send a email or a fax to the eMAG bosses (http://info.emag.ro/index.php?action=article&cat_id=005&id=22 ) to show your discontent about hard working conditions, humiliations and abuses that workers face at eMAG, Romania, at:
Here is a small text in Romanian language:
Catre conducerea companiei eMAG,
In atentia domnului Iulian Stanciu.
Va scriu pentru a imi arata dezaprobarea fata de conditiile de munca mult prea grele, fata de umilintele si abuzurile la care sunt supusi angajatii companiei dumneavoastra, precum si pentru a va solicita insistent sa puneti capat acestei politici de exploatare si ilegalitatilor pe care le comit cei aflati la conducerea companiei.
Mentionez ca voi monitoriza activitatea firmei eMAG Romania pentru a ma convinge ca abuzurile care au avut loc pana acum au incetat si nu se vor mai repeta pe viitor
Your name here