Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Working Conditions at Amazon.com

Thanks to a reporter from the Times of London who went undercover as an employee of Amazon.co.uk, we now know what’s it’s like to work for the successful online retailer in its warehouse in Bedfordshire. As summarized by MobyLives, the report states that workers were:
  • Warned that the company refuses to allow sick leave, even if the worker has a legitimate doctor’s note. Taking a day off sick, even with a note, results in a penalty point. A worker with six points faces dismissal.
  • Made to work a compulsory 10½hour overnight shift at the end of a five-day week. The overnight shift, which runs from Saturday evening to 5am on Sunday, means they have to work every day of the week.
  • Set quotas for the number of items to be picked or packed in an hour that even a manager described as “ridiculous”. Those packing heavy Xbox games consoles had to pack 140 an hour to reach their target.
  • Set against each other with a bonus scheme that penalises staff if any other member of their group fails to hit the quota.
  • Made to walk up to 14 miles a shift to collect items for packing.

I guess success comes with a price.


Anonymous said...

I wonder what conditions are like in the US.

Anna van Gelderen said...

In the Netherlands we have legislation against working conditions like that. Apparently they don't have them in the UK? Amazing - and how awful for the people who work there.

Katherine said...

Yikes. How awful.

Stephanie said...

Your first bullet point sounds like Walmart's policy. Doesn't matter if the employee has a doctor's note, or they're vomiting at work, etc. They still receive a point for not finishing their shift (in some cases, they get a half-point). A few points- three, maybe?- and you're out, no matter how long you've been there.

Absolutely ridiculous, and disgusting. Makes me not want to order from Amazon anymore.

Anonymous said...

I was very disappointed to read this. I am an Amazon.com customer, but am seriously considering not doing business with them any more. Anna, which planet do you live in? Every country has legislation against working under inhuman conditions --- I'm sorry to inform you that large companies have an unfortunate tendency to breaking the law, especially when the workers are poor, unqualified immigrants, as seems to be the case here. I'm sure it happens in the Netherlands too.

But what scared me the most were the comments people posted on the Times article --- things like 'come on, it's a job' or 'if you don't want to work hard, don't apply for the job'. I only wish people were a bit more compassionate. Surely the people who wrote that don't work under such harsh conditions --- ever heard the word 'need'? Well, need is something that may force you to take a job where you're exploited. Doesn't mean you love walking the 14 miles a day, or lifting the 10kg packages.

I'd love someone to investigate the conditions in the U.S.