Former Amazon worker claims employees treated like slaves with no toilet breaks
A former Amazon worker has claimed employees at the warehouse where she was based were treated like slaves and could not take breaks to go to the toilet. The woman, who was employed by the online retail giant as an order picker, worked for the company for eight months, earning GBP9.70 per hour. She was based at a fulfillment centre near Manchester Airport and worked in a 9ft-long workstation that she described as a “cage”.
The former employee, from Manchester, said she had to find, scan and pack items as quickly as possible – with a target of 360 items per hour, one every ten seconds. She said she could not take toilet breaks as she feared not being able to reach her target and claimed workers were watched by cameras at all times. The woman, in her 30s, said she lost weight while working for Amazon and described the job as “exhausting”.
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The worker said she had to pack 360 items per hour (Getty Images)
“It’s really intense because there are cameras everywhere, too, and people constantly walking around monitoring your performance. It was so bad we used to joke with each other, ‘Ready to start your slave labour shift?’ and there was some truth to it.” She claimed employees were forced to carry out their duties amid “brutal working conditions” – and said that after experiencing it first hand, she will never order from the online giant again.
The former Amazon worker said she was once told off for returning from her 30-minute lunch break one minute late and that she received no sympathy when she explained the canteen was 15 minutes walk from her workstation. She added she avoided going to the toilet when she began working for Amazon because even though managers did not forbid it explicitly, they would tell employees off if their performance dropped.
She said employees worked in ‘slave-like conditions’ (AFP via Getty Images)
The former employee also said that performance indicators, which showed how many items workers managed to pack in a shift, caused “anxiety” and “unneeded stress”. She said: “In reality, you can’t keep working at the same pace all week because you’re shattered, especially after -several days of work.”
She claimed that her knees began to swell after working at the warehouse for two months and her doctors told her she should rest – which she said was “impossible” at Amazon. In a separate incident, she said her skin became irritated after a product leaked on her arm, but claimed the first-aider did not do anything to help and did not get close to her due to the risk of Covid-19. She said that after she went to the toilet to wash her arm, someone went looking for her as she had been missing from her workstation for ten minutes.
The woman said other colleagues had similar negative experiences at Amazon and is now urging customers to consider employees’ alleged poor working conditions when ordering from the retailer.
The former Amazon worker described her workstation as a ‘cage’ (Stock photo) (Getty Images)
In 2019, former Amazon worker Michael Gabay told The Mirror he completed “100 days of hell” at the biggest UK depot of the world’s richest company. He claimed workers “walk around like zombies” in 10-hour shifts with limited breaks under pressure to work faster, with employees packing 250,000 items on the night shift he did at the 2million sq ft depot in Tilbury, Essex. An Amazon spokesperson told The Mirror the company has a system to recognise workers’ performance, as well as coaching for employees who feel like they need help to reach their goals.
The company also added that performance is evaluated over a long period of time and that it is only measured when an employee is at their workstation and logged in to do their job, meaning they can log off if they need to go to the toilet or talk to a manager. The spokesperson added that employees can go to the toilet whenever they need it as toilet breaks are not monitored. They also said that in all the fulfillment centres, employees receive two 30-minute breaks every day.
Amazon said in a statement: “Working in a warehouse is not for everyone. But for those who don’t want to sit at a desk all day, it’s a hugely rewarding job. “The fact is, if you want to work in a warehouse, you’ll want to work at Amazon.
“In addition to offering excellent pay and benefits we ensure that safety is a priority, that everyone is supported, treated with dignity and respect, gets regular breaks, and works at a comfortable pace.
See for yourself by coming on a live [virtual] tour.”
- ^ Amazon (www.mirror.co.uk)
- ^ The Sun (www.thesun.co.uk)
- ^ Michael Gabay (www.mirror.co.uk)
- ^ Amazon driver gets sacked after woman in skimpy dress seen sneaking out of van (www.mirror.co.uk)
- ^ Amazon struggling to find warehouse workers in threat to Christmas deliveries (www.mirror.co.uk)
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