Walmart's Retail Employees to Deliver Packages?

14 Jun, 2017 Angela Underwood

                               

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) - Walmart E-Commerce Business CEO Marc Lore asks readers in a blog “why the big deal” in having employees drop off online orders to customers at their homes?

Enterprise and strategic management author Mike Benishek will tell you why.

“As a former underwriter, I have a problem with this. What Class Code is applicable? Is it Retail Store or is it Delivery Drivers-NOC? In most states, the highest-class code applies, with some exceptions allowed provided that there is a clear and distinct separation of payroll,” Benishek said to WorkersCompensation.com.

Lore does not see it that way. “Not only can this cut shipping costs and get packages to their final destinations faster and more efficiently, it creates a special win-win-win for customers, associates and the business,” he said in a blog.

But what about other costs? There are quite a few according to Benishek.

“While a company of this size is assumed to be self-insured, the internal allocations of the data will have to have flawless analytics,” he said. “Background checks and MVR checks will increase the costs. A lot of liability is being created here, for both the employee that is delivering the product, and to the organization itself.”

With two test sites in New Jersey and one in Arkansas, the supermarket chain offers an app for employees to equate the size and number of products they can drop off on their way home and the days they are available to do so. “The best part is this gives our own associates a way to earn extra income on their existing drive home. Associates are fully in control of their experience. If they don’t want to participate, they don’t have to,” said Lore, adding they can update the aforementioned preferences at any time. 

While the CEO sees the positive, Laurel, MD, Walmart employee Cynthia Murray, who runs a regional workers’ activist group titled Organization United for Respect Walmart, told The Washington Post June 9 that added “insurance costs, wear and tear on our cars and the potential risks of delivering packages,” could create more bad than good.

“While Walmart continues to point to its 1.5 million associates as its advantage over companies like Amazon, we also know that they are not doing enough to support us and our families,” she said.

Benishek concurs. Detailing an example of negative possibilities, the risk manager explained how one employee/customer drop-off could go wrong.  

“The single employee delivering the 65” flat screen TV that strains his/her back, or that gets hijacked and the TV is stolen. Or, the employee that works their 8-hour retail shift and then switches to delivery driver status,” he said.

“They load up the delivery items, travel to the daycare center where they pick up their children and their neighbors’ children, and then proceed to their first delivery. On the way, they run a red light and crash into a school bus full of elementary school children who do not have seatbelts. The bus runs off the road and crashes into the bus stop killing the parents waiting there,” he ends, adding where the fault would be.

Like Lore, Walmart spokesman Ravi Jariwala believes strongly in the suggested plan, according to The Washington Post report, saying workers who opt in to the voluntary program will be reimbursed financially, and specially offered overtime based on additional delivery time.

“Walmart is uniquely qualified, uniquely positioned, to be able to offer this,” said Jariwala, who cited demographics of 90 percent of Americans living within 10 miles of a chain. “There is really strong overlap between where our associates are already heading after work and where those packages need to go,” he said. Walmart did not return comment to WorkersCompensation.com by press time.

According to The Washington Post, University of New York Labor Professor Stephanie Luce said, “The practice seems ripe for abuse if the company does not compensate workers for the full cost of their journey, the expenses related to gas, car depreciation, and potential problems like accidents, tickets or parking expenses.”

“Like other ‘gig economy’ type jobs, there is a potential to benefit workers — but in reality, most of the benefits accrue to the employer, not the employee,” she added.

Benishek said if the plan becomes reality, workers’ compensation claims will be problematic.

“They are out of the workplace, no supervision, no video cameras monitoring them and no witnesses,” he said. “Some things should simply be sub-contracted to professional delivery companies.”


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    • Angela Underwood

      Author Angela Underwood has worked as a reporter, feature writer and editor for more than a decade. Her prior roles as Municipal Beat Correspondent with Gannett and Public Information Officer for Toms Rivers government in New Jersey have given her experience on both sides of the political and media fences, making her passionate about policy and the public’s right-to-know.

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