Amazon warehouse in Spain. Photo Marilin Gonzalo (Creative Commons)
What working for Amazon really does to your health: the truth is starting to come out
We all know about Amazon’s lackadaisical approach to paying its taxes, and its “hire and fire” attitude to the workers who run its giant warehouses, where impossible work standards mean staff are regularly and arbitrarily disciplined.
Now GMB believe we are starting to uncover the full extent of the long term impact on health of Amazon’s badly designed and dangerous work regime. With many members in depots across the company, we’re in a unique position to hear from the inside what life is really like working for Amazon.
In February our organisers started to hear unusual stories about Amazon staff being offered lump sums to leave employment. We assumed that this was Amazon attempting to bypass the UK’s laws around redundancy by laying off staff through individual arrangements, potentially on worse terms. But it now seems to be even more sinister than that.
These lump sum offers looked like they were being targeted at longer serving staff. No offers were made in writing, and no independent advice was on offer when staff were approached.
It’s hardly usual practice for an employer who isn’t seeking to reduce the workforce to hand out money to staff to leave the company. According to Amazon it sounds pretty generous – to “smooth their transition …. to a new career”.
So why might Amazon be so keen to smooth some staff’s transition out of the door? One major reason is that Amazon are very keen not to have longer serving staff at all.
Working in the manner the company forces on their warehouse staff, walking many miles each day on punishingly tight timescales, with a famously harsh disciplinary system hanging over you when you miss targets, means that stress and the impact of repetitive manual handling are uncontrolled. We believe working this way over any longer period of time could have a devastating impact on workers’ health.
No wonder Amazon are known for taking staff on for short contracts, then laying them off to rely on benefits for a few months before rehiring them.
This is no way to treat your workers. Aside from being unethical it doesn’t even make long term business sense. If it’s as we fear, and they’re simply finding a way to pay off those workers whose health they’ve damaged, then they need to work with the union to make those work practices more realistic, so their long serving workers can become an asset to the company as they should be. We want proper worker involvement to make sure Amazon’s working practices are safe. Only access to union representation can do that.
Please help us keep up the pressure on Amazon. Sign our petition to pay a fair wage and give all their workers access to the union.