British trade union GMB is campaigning to urge Amazon staff to organise and join up in a campaign aimed predominantly at the ecommerce giant’s warehouse staff in Inverclyde, Dunfermline, Swansea, Rugeley, Bedford, Peterborough, Hemel Hempstead, Doncaster and Croydon. The GMB says: “At the moment Amazon offers “jobs of last resort” to the communities where they build their warehouses.”
The GMB says that staff working at the warehouses, or fulfilment centres (FCs), are mostly in a precarious financial situation: “Most of the time, according to GMB members, Amazon is not helping people off benefits and into work permanently – their employment practices just lock people into the revolving door of low paid temporary work and Job Seekers Allowance – making already hard hit towns and communities even poorer. In Amazon the Minimum Wage has become the Maximum Wage for most staff, most staff cannot get enough hours of work and live in far (sic) of losing their job every day. Few Amazon staff can make ends meet without claiming benefits while they work for Amazon.
According to a recent survey of all Amazon staff: 91% would not recommend working for Amazon to a friend. 70% of staff felt they were given disciplinary points unfairly, 89% felt exploited, 78% felt their breaks were too short and 71% reported that they walked more than 10 miles a day at work.” A source for the survey isn’t cited.
There is no doubt working in an Amazon FC is vigorous work. But we wonder whether the picture is quite as bleak as this union paints. Very often the FCs are bringing much needed jobs to sometimes depressed areas. And the seasonal work that Amazon brings, in particular, will likely be welcome. But with the increasing use of zero-hour contracts, it’s not hard to see how it can be hard to rely on such work when your weekly income isn’t guaranteed.