Written by Ashley Koh

You must be kidding me.
Nope, these workers aren’t 3-year olds stuck in a car on a long road trip. They work as ‘pickers’ for Amazon’s fulfilment centres in Rugeley, central England, tasked with retrieving items that people had ordered. Undercover author James Bloodworth discovered the terrible working conditions in the warehouse when he was investigating casual work and its effect on people’s lives for his book “Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain” (it’s available on Amazon UK ironically). Bloodworth reported that Amazon staff were subjected to unreasonable productivity targets. ‘Pickers’ could only hope to meet these targets if they ran around the warehouse even though Amazon prohibited it for safety reasons. Staff also had insufficient time to eat or drink properly, with only roughly 15 to 20 minutes for lunch in a 10.5 hour working day. That’s not all, Bloodworth discovered that workers avoided taking toilet breaks due to the fear of punishment for missing productivity targets. That was after he found a bottle of urine on the shelf with a pool of water next to it while looking for items on the upper floor of the warehouse, the floor furthest away from the nearest toilet.


What do you have to say Amazon?
Amazon replied with a lengthy statement to Business Insider, stating that they “provide a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK” and “are committed to treating every one of our associates with dignity and respect”. Amazon also offers public tours at its fulfilment centres so customers can see the process of purchasing an item on its website although and stresses that they do not monitor toilet breaks. This incident is only one of many. Back in 2016, ASOS, an online fashion retailer, came under scrutiny for the exploitation of its workers. In 2017, Sports Direct, a UK sports retailer, faced allegations of paying their employees less than minimum wages and penalizing workers for taking sick leave.

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