Amazon dotcon

Usual work related issues, keeping from blogging much recently, but again I’m back…for now!

Panorama had an expose out last week, of life as a “picker” at Amazon’s UK distribution centres. Needless to say, its not the most pleasant place to work. Workers are forced to walk and push a heavy cart tens of km’s a shift, required to retrieve multiple items a minute (the undercover reporter was told off for only collecting 110 items an hour, that’s one every 32 seconds!). All for more or less minimum wage!

And this is not by any means a one off, many other reports from other Amazon distribution centres around the world report similar conditions, with accusations of harsh working conditions, that risk mental health of workers and intrusive security screenings (how this Panorama reporter got his camera in I do not know!).

Sick days
One of the things I found most disturbing as Amazon’s attitude towards sick pay. They operate a disciplinary system that considers a day off sick as 1 point’s worth of misconduct, and 3 gets you sacked. So a bad dose of the flu could get you sacked.

I have noticed this attitude creeping in to many firms where the assumption is that if you call in sick you’re somehow skiving off, when in fact you’re doing the company a favour by not bringing you’re germs into work and infecting other members of staff (costing the company more time in lost productivity). There is thus I would argue a need to confront such attitudes, but at least other firms don’t sack people for being ill.

To me this runs contrary to the way a company should act, i.e. if someone’s ill tell him to keep his germs at home. One wonders what will happen to Amazon in a flu pandemic (I suspect they could find their entire distribution system paralysed and probably face lawsuits from the families of workers who died as a result of catching the disease at work).

No Tax
Of course least we forget one of those things Amazon excels at isn’t just exploiting workers but dodging tax. The company is famous for its Scrooge like behaviour when it comes too paying its taxes. Which makes it odd how the UK government seems to be bending over backwards to get companies like it to set up in the UK.

As the Panorama programme mentioned, councils have spent millions building infrastructure to support Amazon distribution centres, which as the programme shows are effectively operating sweat shops within the UK while dodging tax and undercutting local shops and booksellers who do pay tax and are now going out of business.

I would argue that part of the problem here is that there is this attitude that somehow internet dot.com companies are more ethically inclined that traditional businesses. The reality is no they are not. Google’s “don’t be evil” motto is only accurate if you delete the first word and similarly Amazon’s working conditions resemble those mentioned in the infamous 1900’s Upton Sinclair book “the Jungle”.

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One thought on “Amazon dotcon

  1. Yes I read about this too. A climate of fear in any workplace is never good. And I totally agree with you that people with coughs and colds (or indeed any contagious illness) should not bring them in to work.

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