Management

GMB: Amazon UK Employees Have To Be ‘Above-Average’ Robots

Ben covers web and technology giants such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft and their impact on the cloud computing industry, whilst also writing about data centre players and their increasing importance in Europe. He also covers future technologies such as drones, aerospace, science, and the effect of technology on the environment.

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GMB trade union officer for Amazon backs New York Times Amazon working conditions exposé

The GMB trade union has warned that Amazon UK employees are developing physical and mental illnesses because of the conditions they are forced to work under, echoing the regime-like working environment purported in a New York Times Amazon exposé.

Elly Baker, GMB’s lead officer for Amazon, told The Times that that workers at Amazon UK’s distribution centres are pressured into becoming an “above-average Amazon robot”.

Jeff Bezos

amazonAmazon chief Jeff Bezos lambasted the New York Times article, saying in a communication to internal staff: “The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR.”

But Baker argues otherwise. She said: “It’s hard, physical work but the constant stress of being monitored and never being able to drop below a certain level of performance is harsh. You can’t be a normal person. You have to be an above-average Amazon robot all the time.”

The original New York Times article, a 5,400-word epic, was researched by interviewing more than 100 current and former Amazon employees.

The working conditions described by the employees illustrate a company that pushes workers to their limits in order to make as much profit as possible. One female employee suffering from thyroid cancer received a ‘low performance rating’ after she returned from treatment. Another employee reportedly had to leave for a business trip the day after her twins miscarried.

Amazon UK has more than 7,000 employees working at its eight distribution centres located around the country. TechWeekEurope has asked Amazon UK to comment on GMB’s revelations, but has yet to receive a reply.

Update:

Amazon UK responded to TechWeekEurope with a link to an ‘about’ page on its UK fulfilment centres.

The page states:

“Our progress depends on good execution and good judgment by thousands of employees. We have a culture focused on safety and continuous improvement. Together, we’re working hard to make sure that we are better tomorrow than we are today.

“We care for and value our associates and maintain a culture of direct dialogue with them. As we continue to grow, we continue to learn, innovate and improve to meet the high expectations of our customers. Every associate plays a key role, and we’re committed to treating them with dignity and respect.”

Are you an ‘above average’ Amazon robot? Try our quiz!