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UK Workers’ Union Alleges Amazon Treats UK Warehouse Employees As Robots

UK Workers’ Union Alleges Amazon Treats UK Warehouse Employees As Robots
Following the emergence of reports that ambulances had to be called 600 time in the last three years at the UK warehouses of Amazon, there were accusations against the e-retailer of treating staff like robots.
115 call-outs to Amazon’s site in Rugeley, near Birmingham – which included three instances of pregnancy or maternity related problems and three incidents of major trauma, were given, found the GMB union through a Freedom of Information request to ambulance services. Additionally, the site has eight instances of people falling unconscious and two incidents of electrocution for which ambulances had to be called in at eth same site.  There are at least 1,800 employees at the Rugeley warehouse who work throughout the year and over 2,000 during the peak Christmas period.
According to another FOI request by the union, in comparison there were only right call in the nearby Tesco warehouse of a similar physical size which employs about 1,300 people work, in the same time period.
Amazon said it was “simply not correct to suggest that we have unsafe working conditions based on this data or on unsubstantiated anecdotes. Requests for ambulance services at our fulfilment centres are predominantly associated with personal health events and are not work related. Nevertheless, ambulance visits at our UK fulfilment centres last year was 0.00001 per worked hour, which is dramatically low.”
Compared to other companies engaged in transportation and warehousing activities in the UK, the rate of injuries at Amazon’s facilities was 43% lower on the average, said a spokesman pf the company. This information is based on the Health and Safety Executive’s method of reporting injuries.
In a survey carried out among 200 members of the GMB union working for Amazon, there were four-fifths who claimed that they suffered pain because of the workload they had to endure while there was one pregnant woman who complained that she had once been forced to remain in a standing position for an entire shift of 10 hours.
One woman said to the union: “I told them I could not walk so many miles and I could not pick from low locations. I had a meeting with a safety manager and was also told: ‘It’s not what you want, it is what we decide’.
“My manager told me that most women are working on picking until their maternity leave. I know this is true because I saw ladies with huge bumps picking.”
Another woman said: “I am pregnant and they put me to stand 10 hours without a chair … They are telling me to work hard even they know I am pregnant. I am feeling depressed when I am at work.”
The union was looking to get advice for legal steps that can be taken in relation to the physical pressures at work that is put on its employees by the American retailer, said Mick Rix, a GMB national officer. Some of the staff even make use of electronic devices to measure the speed at which they work.
Employees even do not find the time to visit the toilet or get a drink because of the extreme pressures that they have to endure in meeting performance targets, workers have said.
Rix said the union was also informed of a woman suffering a miscarriage while she was at work which was partly accorded to the work related pressures to meet targets.
“Companies like Amazon should be treating staff with respect, not treating them like robots,” Rix said.
“Hundreds of ambulance call-outs, pregnant women telling us they are forced to stand for 10 hours a day, pick, stow, stretch and bend, pull heavy carts and walk miles – even miscarriages and pregnancy issues at work.
“None of these things happen in a safe, happy working environments.”
Amazon said: “We don’t recognise these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.”

Christopher J. Mitchell

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