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United Kingdom Businesses The Almighty Buck

Amazon Employee Explains the Poor Working Conditions of An Amazon Warehouse 318

Earlier this week, James Bloodworth, a former UK Amazon employee that worked undercover in the "fulfillment center" for six-months, released a book detailing the mistreatment of warehouse employees at the commerce company. He described the work culture as a prison after discovering that Amazon warehouse staff were peeing in bottles to avoid taking too many breaks. Since the report first broke, many Amazon employees have come out to share their thoughts on the working conditions, including one Reddit user who claims that "the post is pretty spot on": They don't monitor bathroom breaks, but [your] individual rate (or production goal) [doesn't] account for bathroom breaks, or... let's say there is a problem like you need [two] of something and there's only one left, well you have to put on your "andon"... wait for someone to come "fix" for you, all the while your rate is dropping. The [two] most common reasons [people] get fired are not hitting rate, and attendance. They don't really try to help you hit rate, they just fire and replace.

My first week there [two] [people] collapsed from dehydration. It's so [commonplace] to see someone collapse that nobody is even shocked anymore. You'll just hear a manager complain that he has to do some report now, while a couple of new [people] try to help the guy (veterans won't risk helping [because] it drips rate). No sitting allowed, and there's nowhere to sit anywhere except the break rooms. Before the robots (they call them kivas) pickers would regularly walk 10-15 miles a day, now it's just stand for 10-12 hours a day. [People] complain about the heat all the time but we just get told 80 degrees (Fahrenheit obviously) is a safe working temp. [Sometimes] they will pull out a thermometer, but even when it hits 85 they just say it's fine. There's been deaths, at least one in my building... Amazon likes to keep it all hush hush. Heard about others, you can find the stories if you search for it, but Amazon does a good job burying it...
Amazon has denied the allegations, saying: "Amazon ensures all of its associates have easy access to toilet facilities which are just a short walk from where they are working. Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don't recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings."
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Amazon Employee Explains the Poor Working Conditions of An Amazon Warehouse

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  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @06:21PM (#56460901) Homepage Journal

    Caption Obvious makes his predictions for Amazon:

    (1) Improve working conditions? No.

    (2) Improve screening of new hires? Yes.

    (3) PROFIT!

    Bibliophile that I am, I will NOT ever buy another book from Amazon. I reached that conclusion more than 15 years ago, and I've resisted every temptation since then. Amazon is just Walmart on steroids--and I never shop at Walmart.

    How long until they starve me into submission?

    Anyway, remember the creed of the corporate cancers that have killed capitalism and communism and that are now working (AKA bribing and lying and scheming) to kill the last vestiges of socialism, too:

    "There is no gawd but profit, and Amazon is gawd's #1 prophet!"

    That's calling it on market cap in relation to the current proprietor, but on profit alone it should be Apple. Top 10 for gross profit (and I do mean gross) includes a bunch of gigantic casinos pretending to be banks.

    • by shanen ( 462549 )

      Whoops, forgot two of the predictions from the Cap'n:

      (4) Make sure the book doesn't become a best seller on Amazon.

      (5) Alert the trolls, even on Slashdot. (Not a real prediction. I already saw their comments.)

      Actually, I was rather surprised to find that Amazon even carries the book, but not surprised to see that they're down to their last copy. Some kind of glitch in the book ordering system, I'm sure. Not like Amazon to try to be out of stock and route customers to other books about people being treated b

    • Seriously, when has a boycott of ANY nationwide or multinational chain really accomplished anything? In a best case scenario, you get so much media attention that the company decides it's a good P.R. move to do some token thing to show how "good" they are. When the furor subsides, they go back to business as usual.

      With WalMart for example? So many people claim to hate them, but they provide employment for the relatively unemployable. If there's one thing I *really* dislike about them? It's the way they're

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        Well, it *has* had an impact in various times and places. But it needs the support, if not participation, of not only most of the populace, but many of those handling the distribution of power. It was effective, over time, in Ireland, India, Union of South Africa, a few other places.

        But I'll admit that those were extreme cases. I, personally, boycott Amazon and Walmart for my own well being. I prefer to practice what I believe to be "right livelihood". And no, I'm not a vegan. Perhaps I should be, but

    • Typically places like this can't improve employee screening because the turnover is so high.

      What most people who never worked in such hellish environments do not realize is HR metrics in your office include turnover and retention rates. At Walmart or the warehouse? NOPE. They use contractors to hide these numbers because if you want less turnover you need to pay more and better working conditions as we know that won't be happening at Amazon.

  • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @06:23PM (#56460913)

    Slashdot Poster Explains the Poor Working Conditions of An Amazon Warehouse

    It's a warehouse.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Slashdot Poster Explains the Poor Working Conditions of An Amazon Warehouse

      It's a warehouse.

      Maybe. But Amazon also employs people for software/tech jobs to keep all their automation running. I have a fulfillment center near near and I have always heard stories about how crap the pay and conditions were for even the tech jobs.

      • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @12:25AM (#56462265) Journal

        How many people from the original Amazon Elexa team still work there? NONE. Seriously every single scientist, engineer, and expert quit as soon as the contract was up with the Amazon echo. The current team probably was flown in from India on the cheap.

        They treat everyone but board members like shit. I was going to apply as a senior desktop and jr system engineer and the recruiter told me $35K a year as a contractor ... I hung up the phone. Sorry, employers have shown me not trust them if they promise you the world and will give you promotions or job security.

        They simple do not care and will simply fire and replace until they find someone willing to work below value.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Having seen their hiring process and the kind of questions they ask during interviews, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to work there for any amount of money.

          I have a feeling it's actually a kind of age discrimination. Ask university exam style questions that no-one with a few years of experience remembers any more. Make the fresh graduates think they are good because they answered it, and then run them into the ground until they quit.

      • by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @01:25AM (#56462383) Homepage

        I know several people that work or have worked at Amazon in tech and it's almost as bad with management and incompetence. A Friend of mine who's working as a contractor describes what he's running into with the Echo team and the incompetence he's running into there. I also have a close relative who spent quite a long time there. Managers are basically at each other's throats and the politics are insane from what everyone tells me. My friend who's a contractor there working on the Echo keeps telling me horror stories about the incompetence he runs into daily from lead developers. Another friend of mine who left told me that most of the competent people leave.

    • when the Teamsters ran them.
    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      Warehouses used to be a not bad job for someone without much education or skills, at least according to the people I've known that worked in them. Nothing fantastic but not shitty like this is described.

      • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @12:29AM (#56462273) Journal

        Warehouses used to be a not bad job for someone without much education or skills, at least according to the people I've known that worked in them. Nothing fantastic but not shitty like this is described.

        The problem is freaking metrics. I hate them!

        Call centers are horrible too ans run by them. Literally if you give yourself a break more than 3 seconds the team leader RUNS right behind you and freaks out and points to a watch. It was crazy.

        THey hurt Dell, GE, and others. I have been let go from a job over them and it was rediculious as it was not a call center or warehouse. It was an MBA from a customer who only saw the numbers in one area that is measurable. GE and Dell came up with firing 15% every year. As a result no one can retire as you are eventually fired. As a result Dell lost alot of good people and many refuse to work under these conditions.

        You always need to be careful with them. They ruined product quality and employee morale.

      • by indytx ( 825419 )

        Warehouses used to be a not bad job for someone without much education or skills, at least according to the people I've known that worked in them. Nothing fantastic but not shitty like this is described.

        Do you know what you're talking about? More than 20 years ago I worked in a shipping warehouse in college for a company that only hired college students for those jobs. It paid pretty well compared to other crummy jobs available in a student saturated college town, but the conditions were not great and becau

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @06:37PM (#56460997) Homepage Journal
    "There's been deaths, at least one in my building... Amazon likes to keep it all hush hush. Heard about others, you can find the stories if you search for it, but Amazon does a good job burying it..."

    Uh, huh. Deaths. But its all "hush hush".
  • by virtualXTC ( 609488 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @06:40PM (#56461013) Homepage
    Sounds nearly identical to the working conditions of being a 'picker and packer' at toysmart.com. The only way to meet their quotas was to F-over everyone else / leave a mess / steal boxes from the people next to you so you wouldn't have to walk to the restocking station.
    • by Waccoon ( 1186667 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @11:31PM (#56462131)

      My life in a nutshell when I was working in a medical warehouse. With the introduction of voice picking, the company decided to raise our minimum quota to 87% of whatever the computer told us we should be doing. That's like failing a class if you get a B.

      Nobody was getting 100% even under the best of conditions, and it was hard to work at all with mandatory 14-15 hour shifts every day. That's especially hard with voice recognition so bad the system couldn't tell the difference between "yes" and "no". The headphone volume would dynamically change on its own, so the speaker constantly varied between a whisper to a lawnmower-like scream. The dynamic volume adjustment (to account for background noise) pissed me off the most. The computer would scream so loud I was afraid it would literally damage my hearing. There was no way to configure the system to have a consistent volume.

      After 10 years with the company, I was told my performance was below 87%, and I had two weeks to improve it or I'd be fired. I quit on the spot.

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @06:53PM (#56461093)

    James Bloodworth, a former UK Amazon employee that worked undercover in the "fulfillment center" for six-months, released a book detailing the mistreatment of warehouse employees at the commerce company.

    He was undercover for what reason? It sounds like he went looking for some anecdotes to put in the book he was writing.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      If you had read the full article, that is explained. As in he went undercover for his book about low-paying jobs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In other words: He had a vested interest in the stories he chose, not all the stories he heard.

        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          You still failed at reading the article, and so did the people that modded your stupidity up.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Thursday April 19, 2018 @07:45AM (#56463225) Homepage Journal

      Yes, it's a standard technique for gathering information when writing a book. You hear that there are problems at Amazon, so decide to verify it for yourself and gain a greater insight than you can get just from talking to other people. It also gives you an opportunity to test the limits of the system, to ask for better conditions to see what the reaction is and so forth.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @06:54PM (#56461097)

    I worked at Amazon for eight years, starting as a temp warehouse worker doing cycle counts in the Inventory department going through the entire IT department then ending my career there back in the Inventory department doing development for data dashboards and various ETL work.

    I have no formal education other than high school, everything else has just been through hobbies and self learning. I managed about one "promotion" every 18 months or so, traveling the country, to other countries, moving to new states. I say "promotion" because you get the fancy new job, etc but the pay is worthless. Depending on where you join Amazon that is the benchmark of where you will go due to policies on pay raises etc, and yes those apply to promotions too, not just yearly reviews.

    Since I started as a temp that basically sealed my fate, after 8 years and 6 or so promotions I was making 23 dollars an hour, with about 20 shares of stock included (which vest after 2 years with a 40% tax) - building custom apps for one of the largest companies in the world. When I was an IT Engineer I was given $20.50 an hour and 3 shares, to launch new buildings, train new IT teams, manage servers, manage site wide DNS, phone systems, the expansive network. Yet a new peer hired from outside the company would come in and make 27-28 an hour plus stock.

    I think the problem with Amazon isn't the grueling work conditions, etc. As I've had far worse jobs (that were union even), and it's fairly easy to transfer or promote into an "easy" position but that they are constantly dangling the carrot, you always feel like one day you'll make it, and even if you do you'll have nothing to show for it.

    SK

    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @07:14PM (#56461179)

      Eight years is too long.

      You were doing it right, but the trick is that after you acquire new skills and experience, you change employers and get the money.

      Most employers will always remember what you made when you started there. It's one of the main reasons to job hop somewhat regularly. At some level they are always calculating the % of your initial pay that a raise represents. You want to get good money when you come in the door, if you don't, you WILL need to job hop.

      • by King_TJ ( 85913 )

        Yep... I would mod you up if I could.

        There are exceptions, but you're basically correct. Employers know if you were willing to accept $X as your pay to work for them in the beginning? They feel like you should stick around and be satisfied with relatively small, incremental bumps in pay from there on out. (All of your managers have their annual budgets calculated with that assumption too.) It's easier for them to justify a big pay increase for a brand new hire when the time comes and they want someone who

      • It's not just the pay. Your managers and co-workers tend to think of you as the job you were hired for, not the next job you might now be qualified for. It's extremely difficult, in my experience, to break through that ceiling at many companies. But if you jump companies, you can often negotiate a substantial pay boost AND position improvement.

        Naturally, you can't jump too often, as that makes you look like a flight risk, but these days, I think having some breadth of experience looks good on an IT resum

    • Even $27 an hour for a system engineer is shit pay. That pays for a 1 bedroom apartment in most cities exclusing San Fransisco. You got ripped off. No offense man as I am sorry.

      But I would have left to join another company long ago if I were 38 making a mere $45,000 a year for a job that pays up to $70,000 elsewhere and wanted to not have room mates and sub $3,000 beater cars.

  • So now the conditions at Amazon are getting to be like the conditions at Foxconn.
  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @07:08PM (#56461143) Homepage

    Earlier this week, James Bloodworth, a former UK Amazon employee that worked undercover in the "fulfillment center" for six-months, released a book

    Not that I'm saying he's lying, or even exaggerating, but you've got to at least acknowledge the fact that he went in with an agenda, and is coming out with a book to sell.

    Though he obviously didn't think it through. If he'd gone undercover somewhere else, he could've sold the book on Amazon. D'oh!

    • by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @07:19PM (#56461201)

      What? Do you think that journalists just sit around until stories fall in their lap? Of course you have to have an idea, investigate it, write about it, and finally promote your work so you can get paid. In what alternative way do you suggest journalists operate?

      • Of course you have to have an idea, investigate it, write about it, and finally promote your work so you can get paid. In what alternative way do you suggest journalists operate?

        I'm calling this fake news :-)

  • *Reads post with furrowed brow and hand cupped over mouth, slowing shaking head all the while. Then proceeds to order 2 Echos and a Firestick*
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @07:33PM (#56461257)

    When I jumped countries and came to live in the UK I was forced to take the first available job just to get going. I ended up in a large Tesco distribution centre which supplies the whole North West from Manchester to Liverpool and Wales.

    Here's what I witnessed:
    - 80% of the staff consisted of agency workers, most of them foreign.
    - Rota was a myth; you were informed about the hours you were expected to work 2 to 4 hours before the beginning of your shift by a text or a call if you failed to respond within an hour.
    - No guaranteed hours. The weakest workers could be told to go home after as little as 2 hours of work...
    - ...but most days the strong ones were expected to work at least 10 hour shifts and it was a common practice for supervisors to ask for 12.
    - Everyone had to wear a wrist-mounted scanner (AMT - arm-mounted terminal) which also tracked your performance. You were not given any extra time for toilet breaks.
    - Agency workers (who, again, were the majority) were paid wages based on their performance. 80% - minimum wage (£7.50 p/h at that time), 100% - £8.10p/h and 110% (upper threshold) - £8.60 p/h.
    - Your performance was often affected by random events. Sometimes one issue was enough to wreck your performance for the entire day. Crowded lanes, missing products, missing pallets, spillages, oversized products, jammed or damaged printers, random restarts of your AMT.
    - If the above wasn't enough, supervisors were allowed to "steal" your performance by reassigning your already completed tasks to extremely low performers to bump their stats so that the agency as a whole looked better before the client (Tesco). Sadly, this is a fact and not a personal speculation (and common knowledge/practice).
    - Agency workers who worked with frozen food in -21C were not given any additional protection equipment. They were expected to work in very thin gloves and suffered from frost burns daily. They usually happened to be the same people over and over again until they quit are replaced with other lucky ones.

  • ... that was the hipster Chai tea you ordered.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @08:41PM (#56461581)
    30 - 40 years of declining wages [google.com] mean we're all doing whatever we can to hang on. The most obvious thing is buying cheap stuff from China through online retailers.

    It saves me a couple grand a year, which has just barely kept my income ahead of inflation these last few years. I'm just trying to make it until the kid's out of college. I know full well the human cost of it all, but I'm a pretty weak guy. I can barely hang on myself. I know logically that if we'd all stand together we'd be saved but I also know that's just not what happens. I'm an American, and I can't even more than 60% of us to agree that we should all get healthcare. And most of that 60% is in two out of 50 States.

    I think the race to the bottom is just going to accelerate. We could stop it whenever we want, but it would mean accepting the occasional guy like this [youtube.com]. From what I'd see folks would rather starve to death in the streets than see a guy like that get food stamps and health care.
    • It's funny how your own Google link contains an article which also refutes your contention. [forbes.com]

      Wages don't equal Total Compensation. Wages are only one component of how people are compensated for their work. Total Compensation is up compared to productivity.

      Inflation doesn't account for qualitative improvements in products, i.e. a $500 computer now vs. one 30 years ago.

      It's amazing how you get better results when you use the correct stats (per economic theory) instead of cherry-picking just part of them in the

      • you're adding in health care, the cost of which has long since spiraled out of control and is several times inflation. That's not more wages because it's not more wealth. My company might be paying $2000 a month for my health care on top of the $500 I pay but that doesn't mean I get $2500 worth of value. That money just gets filtered back up to the 1% in the form of stock dividends. It's another trick to keep wages low. Nothing more, nothing less.

        Cheap electronics I rarely buy don't solve the wage decli
    • by n3r0.m4dski11z ( 447312 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @12:16AM (#56462243) Homepage Journal

      "I think the race to the bottom is just going to accelerate. We could stop it whenever we want"

      Everybody knows that it's now or never
      Everybody knows that it's me or you
      And everybody knows that you live forever
      When you've done a line or two
      Everybody knows the deal is rotten
      Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
      For your ribbons and bows
      And everybody knows

      and everybody knows

    • Yes and no.

      I am a globalist and a Hillary supporter. GASP! Oddly Trump is the more socialistic and liberal one in terns of economics but I regress going to China may have short term hit us as in the bottom 60% temporarily. Long term the Chinese buy more American products. Pepsi gets only 15% of their revenue in the US today! If the US government got in a trade war Coke and Pepsi would leave the US entirely to not loose greater revenue in China.

      Chinese work for alot more money than 20 years ago. They are ric

  • ... if you set standards that require the workers to use it unsafely.

  • by Torvac ( 691504 )
    you dont get to be one of the richest man on earth without some dead bodies
  • "Never spend more for an acquisition than you have to."

    -Jeff Bezos
  • My son briefly worked as a "manager" in a warehouse in Seattle/Tacoma several years ago. His stories to us about a "driven" work environment correspond with what's in the article. Needless to say, he's not there any more. It wasn't a voluntary departure.

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