Amazon is the fourth largest company in the world with its market cap hovering around $1 trillion, closely following tech giants Apple, Google and Microsoft. However, a recent report shows that despite the company’s financial and technological success, Amazon’s workers are still being crushed under inhumane working conditions in the warehouses.
Working Conditions At U.K Warehouses
An investigation by Sunday Mirror revealed the untold story of workers in Amazon’s warehouses and the price they have to pay for the company’s success.
Every day is an ordeal for exhausted employees at the packaging department who must meet a target of packing 300 items per hour for several hours on end. While describing the working conditions at the picking floor of Amazon’s latest warehouse in Essex, an employee said that cameras planted everywhere in the building are watching every move of the employees.
Every so often, he is approached by a robotic machine and handed a large tower of items to be packaged. In his quest to fulfill the target of 300 items per hour, he must bend towards the floor, pick up an item and reach above his head to transfer the item for packaging – and he must repeat this process every 9 seconds for the entire day until a screen in front of him signals that he has fulfilled the quota for the day.
An Undercover Reporter Investigated the Conditions
The e-commerce business is booming and the number of orders to be fulfilled by each warehouse at Amazon is increasing by the day. This year, Europe’s largest packaging plant in Essex must fulfill 1.2 million orders, a number much higher than last year.
This may mean more profit for the owner of the online giant, but for the workers at Amazon warehouses, the success of the company comes at a heavy price. A reporter worked at Amazon for 5 weeks to observe the conditions inside the packaging plant and came back with shocking tales of worker exploitation.
According to Alan, the reporter, employees would often fall asleep at their stations out of fatigue and in some cases of extreme exhaustion, workers had collapsed on the floor and had to be carried out in an ambulance.
Workers Going On Strike
It is common for staff at Amazon to work for 55 grueling hours a week at an exhausting rate of 300 packages per hours. Those who weren’t able to handle the pressure or were too slow to meet the escalating target, had to face the music.
The television commercials with singing and smiling of Amazon employees is far from the reality of somber atmosphere at the warehouses where thousands of unhappy workers who are paid as little as 20 pounds per hour.
Employees across Europe are now rising to fight against capitalism. In Germany and Italy workers complaining about poor working conditions and low pay have gone on a strike against the e-commerce giant.
Amazon Promises to Improve Working Conditions in Warehouses
Black Friday was one of the most successful days for Amazon which helped founder Jeff Benzos pocket a commission of $2 billion overnight, but the increase in sales has had no reward for the hardworking employees. Staff said that they had to occasionally sleep outside in tents in order to start their shift on time the next day.
Shifts started at 7.30 a.m. on the dot and employees weren’t allowed to use the toilet as they willed. The workers complained that the toilets at the warehouses were filthy and the breaks too short.
Experts have warned that such severe conditions can take a toll on the employees’ mental and physical health but despite Amazon’s promises to improve working conditions, it seems like the company still has a long way to go.