Amazon.com oppressing its workers


This video from Britain says about itself:

Ex-Amazon workers talk of ‘horrendous’ conditions

1 August 2013

Hundreds of employees of online store Amazon on zero hours contracts are subjected to a regime described as “horrendous” and “exhausting”, it is claimed.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Amazon: Devastating expose accuses internet retailer of oppressive and callous attitude to staff

One woman with breast cancer was put on ‘performance-improvement plans’

Ian Johnston

Sunday 16 August 2015

Working four days in a row without sleep; a woman with breast cancer being put on “performance-improvement plans” together with another who had just had a stillborn child; staff routinely bursting into tears; continual monitoring; workers encouraged to turn on each other to keep their jobs.

Life at Amazon sounds bleak, according to a devastating, 5,900-word expose by The New York Times.

The global internet retailer founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, which paid just £11.9m in tax in Britain last year despite UK sales of £5.3bn, has previously been accused of treating warehouse staff in the UK “like cattle” as they are driven to work harder.

However, it’s claimed that their counterparts in the US have faced even tougher conditions. Staff in a Pennsylvania warehouse allegedly worked in temperatures in the high 30s Celsius – as ambulances waited outside to take them away when they collapsed – and air conditioning was only fitted after newspaper reports.

Former office staff at the company’s headquarters in Seattle also spoke of working 80-hour weeks, getting emails from the office while on holiday or late at night, oppressive scrutiny of performance, and callous disregard for personal crises.

An ex-Amazon employee who had a stillborn child recalled how she had “just experienced the most devastating event in my life” but was then told by the company that she was being put on a performance-improvement plan. This, she told The New York Times, was “to make sure my focus stayed on my job”.

The US newspaper described the plan as effectively a warning that the employee was in danger of being fired.

Even the former human resources executive who was required to put the woman on the plan said she had questioned whether it was the right thing to do.

“What kind of company do we want to be?” she asked her bosses at the time.

This was just one of a litany of similar accounts.

A woman suffering from breast cancer was also put on the plan, as she was told “difficulties” in her “personal life” were interfering with her work.

Molly Jay, who worked in the Kindle team, said she was given high performance ratings for years until she started caring for her father when he was dying of cancer.

Ms Jay said she was told she was a “problem” by her boss, took unpaid leave and did not return.

“When you’re not able to give your absolute all, 80 hours a week, they see it as a major weakness,” she said.

A worker who miscarried twins went on a business trip the day after having surgery when her boss allegedly told her: “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done. From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”

Former Amazon engineer Jason Merkoski, 42, said: “The sheer number of innovations means things go wrong, you need to rectify, and then explain, and heaven help if you got an email from Jeff. It’s as if you’ve got the CEO of the company in bed with you at 3am breathing down your neck.”

One former worker’s fiancé used to drive to her office at 10pm and call her mobile phone repeatedly to make her leave. They went on holiday to Florida but she continued to work – only to develop an ulcer from overwork.

Other former staff, including Bo Olson, who worked at Amazon in a book-marketing role for less than two years, said they regularly witnessed people in tears in the office.

“You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” Mr Olson said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

However, some seem to relish working for Amazon – even if it took a toll on their lives. …

People who thrive at Amazon are nicknamed “Amabots”, but staff at other companies sometimes refer to ex-Amazon employees who move to their firm as “Amholes” because of their generally aggressive, competitive nature. Such attitudes are forged by practices such as the organisation level review, which was described as a “semi-open tournament” akin to a court case in which managers debate their staff’s performance, with the worst losing their jobs in a process known as “rank and yank”.

A marketer who worked in the retail division for six years said: “You learn how to diplomatically throw people under the bus… It’s a horrible feeling.”

Robin Andrulevich, a former Amazon human resources executive, described the turnover of staff at the company as “purposeful Darwinism”.

“They never could have done what they’ve accomplished without that,” she said.

Amazon itself says that staff are held to “unreasonably high” standards.

Nicola Smith, head of economic and social affairs at the TUC, the British union body, said such working conditions were “extremely detrimental to employee health and productivity”.

“I think there are some really concerning practices described in The New York Times report, including employment practices that are not legally acceptable in the UK. Yet we know bad employers still exploit workers in this way,” she said.

Amazon has also been criticised in the past for working conditions in its UK warehouses, and Ms Smith said the concerns raised in the US highlight the need for continued vigilance against the dilution of union powers and workers’ rights in Britain – citing fees for employment tribunal cases and a reduction in protections from unfair dismissal introduced under the Coalition Government.

Forest of contradiction

Amazon has faced complaints in the UK for using zero-hour contracts and tagging staff to monitor their performance.

Warehouse workers walk up to 27 miles during a shift, and their toilet breaks are timed. There have also been claims that staff are given a job for 12 weeks then sacked, only to be re-employed, to avoid getting the same rights as full-time workers.

In 2013 Channel 4 News found GPS tags were fitted to staff and talking to colleagues could lead to dismissal. In 2014 Tim McKinney, an American street pastor who worked for two months at Amazon’s warehouse in Dunfermline to assess claims of poor conditions told The Sun that the company used “fear and intimidation” on staff.

The online retail giant Amazon is notorious for subjecting its fulfillment center employees to grueling working conditions and Orwellian supervision at poverty wages. But according to a New York Times report published Saturday, its treatment of white-collar workers is just as bad, if not worse: here.

BUSINESS | The Empathy Lesson Jeff Bezos’ Amazon Desperately Needs

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN AMAZON TEMP “Temp employees walk upwards of 12 miles over the course of a full shift at the Amazon warehouses. On Jan. 18, 2013, Jeff Lockhart Jr. died after collapsing on the job. This is his story.” [Dave Jamieson, HuffPost]

Amazon workers denounce working conditions: here.

“It’s sheer slavery”. Amazon warehouse worker in Manchester UK “enterprise zone” speaks of intolerable working conditions: here.

Amazon ordered employee to work despite heatstroke risk, sought to cover up incident: here.

25 thoughts on “Amazon.com oppressing its workers

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  6. Strike by German Amazon staff

    Several hundred staff working for the German arm of the online retailer Amazon walked out Wednesday, beginning a three-day strike. The Verdi union members are employed at three of Amazon’s nine warehouses in Germany. Staff at the Koblenz warehouse came out on strike Monday.

    The strike is part of a long-running dispute over the demand that Amazon staff be paid in line with other German retail staff, rather than their current wage which is in line with other lower paid logistics staff.

    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/12/23/wrks-d23.html

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  10. Walkout by German Amazon staff

    Last week more than 900 staff working for Amazon, members of the Verdi union, at its German warehouse in Rheinberg, held a one-day strike. It was part of the four-year-long fight by Amazon staff to be covered by terms and conditions relating to retail workers rather that at present as logistics workers.

    German logistics staff are paid at a lower rate and have worse terms and conditions compared to retail staff.

    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/03/31/wrks-m31.html

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  11. Saturday 1st March 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Britain

    GMB takes legal action on behalf of bogus self-employed lorry drivers

    by Felicity Collier

    A UNION is taking legal action on behalf of workers at online giant Amazon over bogus selfemployment within the socalled gig economy, it was announced yesterday.

    The case is being brought by GMB against the logistics firm UK Express, which is based in Birmingham and employs drivers across the country.

    GMB says that the drivers should be classed as workers, rather than as self-employed, and argues that their full employment rights such as the minimum wage and holiday pay are not being upheld.

    The case follows GMB’s landmark victory last October for Uber drivers.

    The London employment tribunal ruled that Uber had acted unlawfully by not providing its drivers with basic workers’ rights.

    GMB legal director Maria Ludkin said: “This is another case in a long line of legal battles around bogus self-employment.

    “Employers might not like paying the minimum wage or giving their workers the protections they’re entitled to in the workplace, but I’m afraid it’s not optional.

    “UK Express deliver for some of the world’s largest companies, in this case Amazon.

    “The drivers delivering for Amazon, like Uber drivers and delivery drivers for DX, cannot be classed as anything other than employed when you look at the law.

    “We don’t get to pick and choose which laws we adhere to and which we don’t like the look of.

    “This is a much wider issue than individual companies … this is about employment in 21st-century Britain.”

    Workers are being “mislabelled” as self-employed so that bosses can deny them rights, said Nigel Mackay of the law firm Leigh Day — which is taking the case to an employment tribunal.

    He added: “Drivers are also being fined if they can’t work, even when they have good reason. We believe this is unlawful.”

    GMB’s win for Uber staff last year lead to 30,000 drivers across England and Wales being granted employment rights.

    At the time, the union labelled the “gig economy” as “old fashioned exploitation under newfangled jargon.”

    Unscrupulous employers that avoid employment rights, sick pay and paying a minimum wage also cost the government millions in lost tax revenue, GMB said.

    https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e785-Amazon-latest-target-of-gig-economy-fightback#.WN9WxmekIdU

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