Amazon warehouse ambulance callouts surge in run-up to Black Friday as unions slam safety

Union bosses have slammed Amazon following a surge in ambulance callouts for injuries and other health concerns at its warehouses in England. A Freedom of Information investigation by the GMB revealed demand for ambulances grew by 46 per cent between October and November as the company seeks to keep up with demand in the run-up to the Black Friday and Christmas sales periods. The union obtained monthly data from four ambulance trusts that cover major Amazon sites and found that, over a five-year period, November was the worst month for ambulance callouts.

The figures are released as GMB stages protests outside Amazon[1] sites across the UK on Friday. New accident investigation reports show that at the Coventry fulfilment centre, serious injuries reported to the Health and Safety Executive in the run-up to Black Friday include injuries to fingers, limbs, back caused by collisions with equipment and repetitive strains. In April 2020, a complainant to Sunderland City Council said that as an Amazon driver who raised concerns about Covid restrictions not being followed, they were ‘verbally threatened and told that I was banned from site potentially making me unemployed.’

In 2018, an inspector from West Northamptonshire Council said that despite a number of manual handling injuries at Amazon, it was ‘difficult to find evidence of training and management outcomes of accident investigations.’ GMB is calling on the company to enter into urgent talks to address its health and safety record. Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: “While most people enjoy their Black Friday bargains, Amazon workers are being pushed beyond the limits of human endurance.

Each year, ambulance call outs to Amazon sites rocket as workers desperately race to hit their crushing targets. “The horrific evidence is here in black and white – ambulance crews are called out to Amazon sites almost 50 per cent more in November. Workers are breaking bones, being left in pain at the end of a shift and getting barred from work for raising covid complaints.

“Amazon can’t deny it any longer. GMB calls on the Health and Safety Executive to investigate these inhumane working practices. This company is a pandemic profiteer can afford to do better – it’s time for Amazon sit down with their workers’ union GMB and make Amazon a great, safe place to work.”

This year the UK has already accounted for over 10 per cent of all global Black Friday searches online. Frances O’Grady , general secretary of the TUC, added that Amazon needs to “get its house in order”. Ms O’Grady said: “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work.

But too many Amazon workers face inhuman targets, unsafe working conditions and endless surveillance. “It’s a scandal that in the run up to Black Friday – a day that rakes in eye-watering profits for the company – ambulance callouts are sky-rocketing as staff are pushed to the brink. Amazon has run out of excuses.

It needs to get its house in order now. That means recognising trade unions and bring its working conditions into the 21st century.” Ms O’Grady added that the Government “cannot watch from the sidelines as people are treated like disposable labour” and demanded that the Government should deliver its Employment Bill that it pledged in 2019 “to improve pay and conditions in Britain”.

Amazon hit back at the claims, saying the GMB was using “incomplete information that’s without context and designed to intentionally mislead”. A spokeswoman for Amazon said: “We know we’re not perfect and are continuing to get better every day, but the fact is that Amazon has 40% fewer injuries on average compared to other transportation and warehousing businesses. “The vast majority of ambulance call outs to our buildings are related to pre-existing conditions, not work-related incidents, and as a responsible employer we will always call an ambulance if someone requires medical attention.

“Rather than arguing with self-interested critics who aren’t interested in facts or progress, we’re going to keep listening to our 55,000 employees, taking their feedback, and working hard to keep investing and improving for the long run.”

References

  1. ^ Amazon (inews.co.uk)


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