BBC reporter posed as an Amazon warehouse employeeand took a hidden camera with him as he worked the pre-Christmas night shift.
He didn’t like what he saw. But don’t get too excited: Amazon doesn’t come off too badly in the story, either.
We’ve previously noted that gruelling work conditions inside Amazon warehouses pose a risk to the company’s reputation, and that the company behaves as if it’s slightly oblivious to that risk. In Germany, for instance, workers are about to stage a one-day strike at Amazon over pay disparities with other types of warehouse workers.
So the hits keep on coming: Adam Littler, of the BBC’s “Panorama” show, took an 8.25 per hour (about $US13.33) graveyard-shift job at a facility in Swansea, Wales, and ended up walking 11 miles a night:
After experiencing a 10-and-a-half-hour night shift, he said: “I managed to walk or hobble nearly 11 miles, just short of 11 miles last night. I’m absolutely shattered. My feet are the thing that are bothering me the most to be honest.”
Amazon is hiring 15,000 extra workers to tackle the holiday rush, the BBC reports. Each worker must pick up an item from somewhere inside Swansea’s 800,000 square-foot facility every 33 seconds. If Littler couldn’t make it on time, his machine would beep, telling him he’d made an error:
A handset told him what to collect and put on his trolley. It allotted him a set number of seconds to find each product and counted down. If he made a mistake the scanner beeped.
“We are machines, we are robots, we plug our scanner in, we’re holding it, but we might as well be plugging it into ourselves”, he said.
“We don’t think for ourselves, maybe they don’t trust us to think for ourselves as human beings, I don’t know.”
We’ve noted before that while the job entails a lot of walking, this isn’t an evening stroll. It’s high-pressure, high-paced walking, the entire night.
The BBC then found Professor Michael Marmot, “one of Britain’s leading experts on stress at work,” to comment: “The characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness.”
What the BBC appears not to have found, however, are the type of headline-driving smoking guns that have been seen at Amazon warehouses in the U.S., where workers pass out in the heat of un-air-conditioned hangars and Amazon opposed them collecting unemployment benefits if they became sick or disabled.
Amazon sent the BBC a long rebuttal, which begins:
At the time of this response, despite repeated requests, Panorama has refused to provide Amazon with full details regarding their programme’s allegations or to permit us to view the footage to which you refer.
The safety of our associates is our number one priority, and we adhere to all regulations and employment law. Independent legal and health & safety experts review our processes as a further method of ensuring compliance.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.