Amazon, the internet giant has been accused of pushing staff too far and putting them at risk of stress associated illnesses as they gear up for the Christmas period. According to an article released today Amazon staff that work in the eight distribution depots across the UK are expected to pick a parcel every 33 seconds, and walk distances up and down the warehouse that equal 11 miles of walking per shift.
This was brought to light during undercover filming for a popular BBC topical news show which airs tonight. Under cover reporter Adam Littler applied for a temporary post in one of Amazons giant 800,000 square feet Swansea based distribution depots as a picker. He was assigned a trolley and a hand held computer/scanner which relayed information telling him what item he should pick and where it is located and was counting down from the moment the order was received. An average of 33 seconds was allowed per pick with an audible alarm being sounded, if a mistake was made or he took too long locating the item then the handheld terminal would basically report this to a member of the management team who would then demand to know what is causing the delay.
Health experts think that added to the long hours this kind of pressurised job could lead to increased number of stress related illnesses due to its high demand nature. Amazon employs many staff through employment agencies at peak times with most working for the average hourly rate of £6.50 per hour rising to over £8 pounds for 10 hour evening shift.
The undercover agency reporter/agency worker said he felt like a machine that was not encouraged to think for himself and just follow the computer, he said he had walked approx. 11 miles during his 10 hour night shift and that his feet were left feeling painful and sore.
Amazon hit back claiming that new recruits are warned of the active nature of the roll stating that many staff actually enjoy the exercise with employees volunteering for the roles especially because of the activeness of the job. The also went on to say:
“Amazon said it had invested £1bn in the UK and created 5,000 permanent jobs. It added that it relied on the good judgement of thousands of employees. The company said: “Together we’re working hard to make sure we’re better tomorrow than we are today.”
The full programme is available now in the UK on BBC iplayer: Behind the click is part of the Panorama series aired earlier this evening at 20.30.