You would have thought that a multi-billion dollar commercial operation like Amazon could afford to pay and treat its workers fairly, wouldn't you? After all, this is the online mega-retailer whose creative accountants managed to reduce its three-year tax bill to a piffling £4.24 million in tax despite sales of nearly £11 billion. You’d think that a company reputedly worth £198 billion might let some of that dosh trickle down into the pockets of the workers who keep their whole show on the road.
Think again. Instead, in the UK Amazon employs tens of thousands of people at nine warehouses, mostly on temporary contracts and at arm’s length through agencies. Owing to a combination of low pay and not enough guaranteed hours, thousands of Amazon warehouse staff still don’t earn enough to get off in-work benefits. Workers report limited prospects of a permanent job. What’s more, they face draconian surveillance at work, including relentless time targets to track down items ordered, monitored toilet breaks, continuous filming of work and disciplinary action every time they fall behind in this punishing race against the clock.
The experience is dehumanising and stressful (as this Mail on Sunday undercover investigative piece describes in detail) and the Christmas rush for gifts is only ramping up the pressure on workers further.
It comes as no surprise therefore that morale is rock-bottom. According to a survey of Amazon staff:
- 91% would not recommend working for Amazon to a friend.
- 89% felt exploited.
- 70% of staff felt they were given disciplinary points unfairly.
- 78% felt their breaks were too short.
- 71% reported they walked more than 10 miles a day at work.
According to TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady: “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. All workers deserve decent pay, conditions and a voice at work – not surveillance and the threat of a disciplinary if they need to go to the toilet.”
It’s time Amazon paid its way… and you can help
GMB – the trade union for Amazon staff – is campaigning with local communities, tax justice groups and Amazon staff to make sure the company makes its full contribution to rebuilding the UK economy – both by paying wages its staff can live on and by paying its taxes.
You can get behind Amazon’s workers to demand they get better pay, contracts and conditions.