From the TUC

What working for Amazon really does to your health: the truth is starting to come out

15 Apr 2015, By Guest

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.

Take action: Sign the GMB petition now

12 Responses to What working for Amazon really does to your health: the truth is starting to come out

  1. Dean McPherson
    Apr 15th 2015, 10:03 pm

    Disgusting and getting away with it!

  2. John
    Apr 16th 2015, 3:45 am

    Thankyou for this article Elly Baker. I am sure that the right wing conservatives would ‘love’ this style of management, hiring & firing at will.

    The more this is publicised then I hope the pressure will mount on this company to change its working practices otherwise people should definitely shop elsewhere.

    Am glad that the GMB Union is now involved with all this.

  3. David Ayrton
    Apr 16th 2015, 9:54 am

    Yes we need stronger employment, so we need a Labour government and to put massive pressure on it. But the most important thing is to develop trade union organisation of workers. We need to back the GMB in all its attempts to do just that. This will end such exploitation and mistreatment of workers, such as the activities of Amazon.

  4. John
    Apr 16th 2015, 10:16 am

    Well done GMB, well done Elly,

    Surely any Government should have an ethical responsibility to workers to ensure that employers of all kinds treat their workforce properly and fairly according employment law. The employees too must ensure that they maintain respect to their employers and try to do the best job possible for them.

    The Amazon situation reported here does not appear to support either. Amazon appear to be abusing their employees and in so doing undermining employment law to suit a greedy tendency to make money at all costs, to include avoiding Government taxes!

    A decent British Government should not turn a blind eye to this. No employer should get away with it. However, the problem we have in the UK is that the political party in power currently, which is blinkered and I believe, driven by greed, will wish to empower employers who treat workers badly so that the rich get even richer at the expense of decent people who only wish to make a decent standard of living for themselves and their families in a decent society.

    The political system in the UK does not work for the people as a whole. It is too divisive with different idiologies. If only politicians shared common goals which best served the people. If only all employers were fair and all employees were honest! Most certainly fair play seems to be ignored by Amazon. Parasitical companies like them should be driven from our shores, if they are not seen to change their priorities.

  5. Dan
    Apr 16th 2015, 10:21 am

    Surely this is a breach of Amazon’s duty of care? How can this approach possibly be permitted by the regulator? All the more reason for the GMB to be recognised and to stop this exploitation. It doesn’t look like anyone else will!

  6. Mark Vaughan
    Apr 16th 2015, 10:50 am

    Exactly the same happens at Gardners Books Ltd. Gardners is the biggest books wholesaler in UK at Eastbourne (East Sussex)

    Gardners works for Amazon, Morrisons, Waitrose, etc and their workers suffer the same health problems and discrimination since many years ago.

    Even worse because no one care about them!

  7. pete goldie
    Apr 16th 2015, 7:21 pm

    This practice must be stopped.

  8. Margo MacMillan
    Apr 16th 2015, 8:09 pm

    Modern day slavery and they should not be allowed to continue…

  9. M.C.
    Apr 17th 2015, 1:11 am

    It is or should be clear, we cant co-exist with Amazon et al. Thus the Labour movement should prepare criminal prosecutions to be taken against these CRIMINALS and the same should apply to all the other players in this conspiracy against both organized and non-organized labour. Go on the offensive comrades, as the comments above make it arguably clear this is a necessary and logical move to make and to make now!

  10. Klaus
    Apr 17th 2015, 12:39 pm

    Can we have some [obviously anonymised] case detail? I find it helps to make these situations real, especially when discussing with others to spread the word

  11. Pat
    Apr 18th 2015, 11:10 pm

    This is the sort of thing the government never mentions when it talks about the increased employment figures.

    Good luck with the campaign, GMB.

  12. Trevor Burr
    Apr 22nd 2015, 6:18 pm

    What is the point of it all?
    Increasingly, you see people wired up to headsets talking business on their way to and from work. Everything is rush, rush, stress, stress. So much for the promise when I was younger that technology would make life easier for everyone. Of course, that promise was not necessarily made in bad faith, but, as ever, manipulative overlords make it work for them (creating almost inconceivable levels of personal wealth for the few) rather than for the majority. We need to take control. At present, the tail is wagging the dog. Remember the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley in ‘The Masque of Anarchy’ (written in response to the Peterloo masscare) … “Ye are many … they are few”