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 Amazons 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 kms a shift, required to retrieve multiple items a minute (the undercover reporter was told off for only collecting 110 items an hour, thats 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!).
One of the things I found most disturbing as Amazons attitude towards sick pay. They operate a disciplinary system that considers a day off sick as 1 points 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 youre somehow skiving off, when in fact youre doing the company a favour by not bringing youre 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 dont sack people for being ill.
To me this runs contrary to the way a company should act, i.e. if someones 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).
Of course least we forget one of those things Amazon excels at isnt 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. Googles dont be evil motto is only accurate if you delete the first word and similarly Amazons working conditions resemble those mentioned in the infamous 1900s Upton Sinclair book the Jungle.