Ensure fair and safe working environments for Amazon warehouse workers
Amazon should provide an independent audit of warehouse workers wages and working conditions.
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The issue

Amazon aims to become the “Earth’s Best Employer, and Earth’s Safest Place to Work”, however, there have been continuing reports of unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment of their employees globally. There are consistent reports about the treatment and working conditions of Amazon warehouse workers.

In 2018, Amazon increased the minimum wage of their employees to $15 an hour. Many critics argue, however, that the wage increase was in response to negative reports surrounding the treatment and working conditions of Amazon workers. Furthermore, reports state that the same year bonuses were eliminated for warehouse workers meaning that the hourly wage increase barely impacted Amazon’s fourth-quarter operating costs of $68.6 billion that year.

Amazon claims that they “provide a safe and positive workplace”, however, there are numerous reports of injury in warehouses, unattainable performance targets and unfair treatment of workers.

Since the global pandemic, Amazon's profits have increased with a 37% increase in year on year quarterly sales reported in October 2020. This equated to over US$96.1 billion in revenue. Former CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth also increased in 2020 and now exceeds US$200bn, making Jeff Bezos one of the richest people on the planet. There is a huge disparity in wealth throughout Amazon, highlighted by a report which states that it takes eight weeks for an amazon warehouse worker to earn what Jeff Bezos makes in a second. After the recent unionisation vote by Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama, former CEO Jeff Bezos claimed that Amazon needs “to do a better job for our employees”. An independent audit of Amazon’s workers would ensure that the best is being done for Amazon employees and that they are receiving a fair wage for their work. An independent audit of the working conditions and wages of Amazon warehouse workers should be implemented to address the issues and concerns which are regularly reported.

Supporting Statement

In response to the increased demand for online shopping during the pandemic, Amazon has hired an additional 400,000 employees in the U.S. alone, however, throughout the pandemic there have also been increased complaints of unsafe working conditions, which has resulted in Amazon workers signing petitions and protesting their working environments. The increase in demand and the displeasure of employees over pandemic working conditions highlight that there are still issues with how Amazon treats its employees which needs to be investigated.

There is widespread demand for Amazon to improve the treatment of their workers. Over 400 legislators from 34 countries have signed a letter addressed to Jeff Bezos stating that “the world knows that Amazon can afford to pay its workers”.

There are numerous stories of Amazon warehouse workers who have been injured while at Amazon warehouses, particularly during the holiday season. A report found that in Rugby, England, on average one ambulance was called a week to the Amazon warehouse which employed over 1,000 people.

Other reports of the mistreatment of Amazon warehouse workers state that workers lose their jobs for a variety of reasons including going into negative unpaid time-off, and not reaching their performance targets, which many report are unattainable. Warehouse workers in the UK report having to process a package every 9 seconds.

Recommendations

We recommend that Amazon provide an independent audit of Amazon warehouse workers wages and working conditions. This will ensure that workers are being paid fairly for the work they do and that they are being provided with a safe working environment.

Links
  • https://www.aboutamazon.com/about-us
  • Sainato, M. (2019) Revealed: Amazon touts high wages while ignoring issues in its warehouses. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/aug/06/amazon-workers-minimum-wage-injuries-working-conditions
  • Hamilton, I and Cain, A. (2019) Amazon warehouse employees speak out about the brutal reality of working during the holidays, when 60-hour weeks are mandatory and ambulance calls are common. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-employees-describe-peak-2019-2?r=US&IR=T
  • Bonazzo, J. (2018) Report: Amazon workers have to process 300 packages an hour and Pee in Bottles. Observer. Available at: https://observer.com/2018/04/amazon-britain-harsh-working-conditions/
  • Kohan, S. (2020). Amazon’s Revenue Climbs 37% In Knockout Quarter As Online Spending Shifts Online. Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleykohan/2020/10/29/amazon-sales-up-37-for-q3-and-projected-to-hit-over-372-billion-for-2020/?sh=29e60d232df7
  • Ng, K. (2020) It takes eight weeks for an Amazon warehouse worker to earn what Jeff Bezos makes in a second, says union. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/amazon-warehouse-worker-jeff-bezos-salary-tuc-union-b1775679.html
  • Hansen, S. (2021). Jeff Bezos on Amazon Union Vote: “We need to do a better job for our Employees’. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahhansen/2021/04/15/jeff-bezos-on-amazon-union-vote-we-need-to-do-a-better-job-for-our-employees/?sh=355a20161c66
  • Welse, K. (2021) Amazon to raise pay for 500,000 workers. The New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/28/technology/amazon-pay-increase.html
  • Palmer, A. 2020. How Amazon keeps a close eye on employee activism to head off unions. CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/24/how-amazon-prevents-unions-by-surveilling-employee-activism.html
  • Barbaschow, A. (2020). 400 global public officials call on Amazon to pay its dues. ZDNet. Available at: https://www.zdnet.com/article/400-global-public-officials-call-on-amazon-to-pay-its-dues/
  • Hamilton, I and Cain, A. (2019) Amazon warehouse employees speak out about the brutal reality of working during the holidays, when 60-hour weeks are mandatory and ambulance calls are common. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-employees-describe-peak-2019-2?r=US&IR=T
  • Hamilton, I. (2020). Amazon won't penalise warehouse workers for taking unpaid time off amid the coronavirus outbreak. Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-relaxing-attendance-policy-coronavirus-2020-3
  • Bonazzo, J. (2018) Report: Amazon workers have to process 300 packages an hour and Pee in Bottles. Observer. Available at: https://observer.com/2018/04/amazon-britain-harsh-working-conditions/
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