New Amazon Workplace Expose
December 5, 2016
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An undercover expose by the Daily Mail in the UK accused Amazon of ‘dehumanising’ its staff battling to deliver gifts to millions of customers in time for Christmas. Workers at the internet shopping giant’s distribution centers face disciplinary action if they lose a punishing race against the clock to track down items ordered by online shoppers.
- Workers faced disciplinary action if they were deemed to have taken too long during bathroom breaks;
- Workers received £7.35 an hour – just pennies more than the minimum wage – from a company recently branded the most valuable retailer in the world and valued at £198 billion;
- Staff had to work ‘compulsory’ extra days and hours – and were given short notice of shift changes;
- There was an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion, with handheld scanners tracking workers’ whereabouts, plus CCTV cameras monitoring the warehouse, and airport-style security checks.
- Staff were left with blistered feet after walking up to 14 miles a day
One worker said: ‘You just leave your brains behind when you start working here. You’re just a zombie.’
The job involved being given a list of up to 230 items, which must be collected in order and within a given time. These are then taken by trolley to the despatch area where a separate team wrap the products for delivery.Each time the scanner bleeps it flashes up the next item to be collected, its location and a target time – sometimes as little as seven seconds – to reach it. The scanner also counts down the items left to be collected before the trolley is full, and the overall time the whole process should take.
Workers are disciplined for taking too long to walk back from breaks and time spent in the bathroom. One employee explained how he was given a warning in his second week for taking seven minutes during an unscheduled break to go to the bathroom.
Amazon defended its working practices, saying: ‘We provide a safe and positive workplace. The safety and wellbeing of our permanent and temporary associates is our number one priority.”
Union General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘These working practices have no place in modern Britain. Staff should be treated like human beings, not machines. Big Brother-style management creates a culture of fear that robs people of their dignity.”