Amazon responds to damning report on warehouse conditions in Australia

A worker at an Amazon fulfilment centre. Photo: Matt Cardy/ Getty.

The poor work conditions at Amazon’s US and European warehouses, previously revealed in a Business Insider investigation, appear to also exist in Australia, according to a report from the ABC on Wednesday.

Following the ABC’s investigation, Amazon said in a statement emailed to Business Insider Australia the company would create 500 new permanent roles at its warehouses in Australia over the next year. The company noted the announcement was a work in progress over months.

“As we grow our local operations, we will be transitioning the majority of the associates to full-time permanent employees with competitive pay and benefits, as we have done in other places where we operate around the world,” said Robert Bruce, director of operations Australia at Amazon.

Business Insider understands the pay range will start from a base rate of $28 per hour for ordinary hours and employees will receive penalty and overtime.

Amazon opened its first Australian warehouse in Melbourne in 2017, and another launched in Sydney in August 2018. But working for what was briefly the world’s largest company isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, according to the report, which is based on interviews with eight current and former Amazon warehouse employees in Australia.

Workers told ABC News:

  • there is a culture of fear where their performance is monitored by the second;
  • they are expected to move around the warehouse at “Amazon pace,” which is described as somewhere between a walk and a jog;
  • they feel like they don’t have enough time to even go to the toilet during their shifts;
  • their working day can be terminated early if there’s a lack of orders to complete;
  • everyone is employed as a casual worker and it’s hard to know sometimes if there will be enough shifts.
  • Many, if not all of these conditions, have been alleged in previous reports about Amazon warehouses in other countries, such as the US and the UK.

    In a statement, Amazon called the ABC report “intentionally sensational.”

    “The article by the ABC is intentionally sensational in its reporting and is demeaning to the hard working dedicated people who work at Amazon fulfilment centres and do a great job,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

    Amazon’s billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, has also disputed previous allegations that poor working conditions existed in Amazon’s warehouses. “I am very proud of our working conditions and I am very proud of the wages that we pay,” Bezos said in an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner in 2018. “When you’re criticized, first look in the mirror and decide: Are your critics right? If they are right, change. If they are not, don’t change.”

    Workers at Amazon’s Australian warehouses are tasked with storing, selecting, and packing tens of thousands of items between them every day. Some of the workers told the ABC that their work felt robotic, while others said they felt like they were in a dystopian video game.

    “They would drill ideology into you every day,” an anonymous Amazon warehouse worker told the ABC. “They’d try and brainwash you into becoming the star player of Amazon.”

    US tech giants like Amazon and Uber have been criticised for exploiting casual workers who often have to work long, arduous shifts in order to make enough money to live on.

    In response to the reports regarding poor work conditions internationally, the Seattle-headquartered ecommerce giant introduced air conditioning in older factories and in October 2018, increased wages for US warehouse workers to $US15 an hour, up from as little as $US10.

    If you’re an Amazon worker with further information then feel free to get in touch. You can reach us via email here.

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