Amazon is a giant among giants when it comes to sending out those retail items from their warehouses around the globe, with one warehouse alone shipping 1.2 million items a year. An Amazon Christmas commercial shows the warehouse workers at an Amazon warehouse very content and relaxed while doing their job, along with singing packages, which are used to set the mood as they are being pushed along a delivery line.
There doesn’t seem to be any problems with the working conditions at Amazon warehouse shown in the video, which is seen above, but that isn’t the case in real life, reports Alan Selby, a reporter who went overcover as a worker in the warehouse. Selby is a reporter from the Sunday Mirror and he recently went undercover at Amazon’s biggest European packing plant, where 1.2 million items are shipped each year. What the reporter found was deplorable working conditions for the Amazon workers.
According to the Mirror, Amazon is U.K.’s top retailer and Forbes Magazine has it closing in on Walmart for the title of the world’s top retailer. There’s no doubt about Amazon coming out on top when comparing other retailers to their online sales of billions of dollars each year, but what about how it treats its workers?
Selby spent five weeks undercover as a worker at the Tilbury, Essex, Amazon warehouse, which is its newest warehouse in Europe. The reporter suggests that Amazon’s success comes at the expense of the workers in their packing warehouses.
The reporter from the Mirror got a job packing the boxes that hold the orders shipped out to the online giant’s shoppers. With a screen set up in front of him to remind him of how many orders per hour he needed to pack and how many orders per hour he was packing, he went to work. The target was 300 items per hour, hour after hour, much like a robot, he writes. It was grueling physical work, even for this marathon runner.
While cameras watched every move the workers make, Selby was armed with a secret camera that he ironically purchased through Amazon. He said he found workers “asleep on their feet, exhausted from toiling up to 55 hours per week.” He also said that the staff who couldn’t keep up with their target numbers for packing faced getting fired.
Others, who buckled under the grueling pace of this job, were attended to by ambulance crews, which were seen quite frequently at the warehouse. Selby claims the army of 24,000 workers were paid very little per item that they packed and sent on their way to various locations throughout the world.
Employees told the undercover reporter that some have slept in tents under bridges just so they could get to work on time. The workers are timed when they go to use the toilet, cites this reporter from the Mirror. “Staff has been paid less than the living wage and it even emerged that drivers had faced fines for early deliveries.”
Amazon had promised to clean up its act after an expert had warned that workers were facing an increased risk of ill health, both mentally and physically, according to Shelby. The reporter indicates that the whiteboard set up for workers to list their complaints doesn’t show any indication of things getting better.
From filthy toilets and breaks being too short, it sounds as if Amazon has some work to do if Selby’s finds are any indication. It has gotten so bad that employees have covered the clocks with tape so they aren’t reminded how long they have left on their shift. They only were allowed off their feet during the two half-hour breaks they received during their shift.
The workers were tired out from physically pushing their bodies to work fast enough to pack their quota per hour. The warehouse is the size of five football fields and walking to the nearest bathroom could take as much as five minutes, according to Shelby.
Amazon is experiencing a strike among their warehouse workers in Italy and Germany. Along with a pay hike, the workers in these two countries are asking for better working conditions as well. According to the BBC: “Luigi Giove, Secretary General of Italy’s CGIL union, said those on strike are calling for shifts which are ‘not exhausting’ and for Amazon to redistribute its profits.”
[Featured Image by Ross Franklin/AP Images]