Black Friday for Amazon Staff: Labor Costs Behind Consumer Convenience

Workers are preparing to stock shelves at the Rugeley Amazon Fulfillment Center (Photo courtesy of Nathan Stirk / Getty Images)

With holidays shopping Many people take advantage of Amazon’s promise of low prices and speedy delivery. Online retail giants are more popular than ever Thousands more employees To meet the demand.

But the evidence available is Amazon Executing our orders can harm the worker. It also suggests that this problem is exacerbated, and is exacerbated by the introduction of automation and robots into the fulfillment process.

Our team at Work Futures Research Group Review over 500 sources Of information about Amazon. We looked at media reports, scholarly publications, materials published by Amazon itself, and blog posts by Amazon employees. We also spoke with a trade union that organizes Amazon workers in the United Kingdom.

I tried to talk to Amazon to get an answer to the survey results, but I didn’t.

Our findings indicate the potential for harmful work practices within Amazon’s fulfillment centers or warehouses. During peak demand times such as Black Friday, Cyber ​​Monday, Prime Day sales and Christmas, Amazon drafts thousands of additional staff.This year, the company offers Sign-up bonus Up to £ 3,000 to attract seasonal workers.

During these peak hours, the length of the working week can be as long as 60 hours, with average rates Ambulance calls are said to have increased, Business Insider reported in 2019. However, an Amazon spokeswoman told Business Insider that he knew that recordable incidents wouldn’t increase during peak hours, even if he didn’t provide records. The company also uses ambulance call rates to assess workplace safety “just wrong because it doesn’t consider working hours, population size, and whether demands are labor-related.” Said.

Evidence of physical harm that Amazon warehousemen may experience is alarming. NS New York Commission for Occupational Safety and Health, Workers, unions, activists, membership organizations of health and safety experts, Survey 142 Of the 2,500 workers at Amazon’s Staten Island Warehouse.

Of those surveyed, 66% said they “experienced physical pain while performing their normal duties” and 42% “continued to experience pain even when they were not working”. Stated. The researchers concluded that these reports constitute evidence of “work-related musculoskeletal disorders.”

NS Similar investigation According to the GMB trade union in the United Kingdom, 87% of respondents reported both constant and occasional pain. It was found that 10% felt pain only occasionally and only 3% did not.

GMB too Information obtained From a UK municipality about an accident reported by an Amazon warehouse to health and safety authorities. NS Annual total It increased from 152 in 2016-17 to 240 in 2018-19.

Automation and injury

Amazon advocates the introduction of digitalization and automation into work processes Improve worker safety.. However, there is evidence to suggest that these innovations can actually contribute to warehouse injuries.

Worldwide, Amazon has hundreds of thousands Robot drive unit NS That warehouse in recent years.This has improved speed Amazon fulfills the orderBut that also means that human workers need to catch up with machines.Amazon also uses digital programs Track worker movementsSynchronize human and robotics elements to maximize productivity and efficiency.

This year, the UK already accounts for more than 10% of all online Black Friday searches worldwide. (Photo by Nathan Stark / Getty Images)

A former senior operations manager at Amazon told Reveal, a non-profit organization of research journalism, that when robots were introduced, workers’ productivity expectations were: More than double‘. The picker responsible for item acquisition and scanning has raised the target from about 100 items to 400 items per hour. In a survey involving Amazon’s internal documents, make clear:

  • The rate of serious injuries increased by 33% from 2016-19.
  • In each of these years, the highest incidence of serious injuries occurred during Prime Day and Cyber ​​Monday weeks.
  • The rate of serious injuries in 2019 was 7.7 per 100 employees. This is almost twice the average rate of warehousing and storage in the United States.
  • From 2016 to 2019, the rate of serious injuries in warehouses operating with robotics was more than 50% higher than in older warehouses operating without robotics.

Amazon spokeswoman for 2019 Told Ribir The increase in injuries during the prime day and holiday seasons is due to an increase in the number of employees, while the average injury rate during that time is “historically declining or stable”.

A year later, a spokesperson for the company Told Ribir In 2020, Amazon spent more than US $ 1 billion (£ 750m) on technology and safety-related safety measures for Covid-19. They said,'[Amazon’s] Investing in safety training and education programs, technology and new safety infrastructure is working.

Faster pace of work is generally Leads to increased risk Causes of musculoskeletal disorders and stress, especially when workers are limited in their pace of work. This finding challenges the idea that robotics and automation reduce the physical demands on workers.

In May 2021, Amazon Well-being program The focus was on improving the individual resilience of workers through measures such as healthy eating and “body mechanics”. There was no evidence that Amazon managers considered reducing the proportion of work as a way to improve worker well-being.

There is little evidence of the impact of working at Amazon on mental health.Journalism report found an example of anxiety, Mood disorder When stress..

OrganizeA worker-led network of more than one million members surveyed workers in a UK-based fulfillment center and found that: 57% of respondents They have been “more anxious” since they started working at Amazon. Many reports cite workers’ explanations about the stress of achieving goals.

Achieving the goal

This pressure is reported to be systematically carried out by an automated system. Threaten the bottom 10% of workers Take disciplinary action and rank according to productivity against your goals. This is supported by the trade union officials we interviewed. Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, Which Representing a worker At many Amazon warehouses in the UK.

Similar claims were made by others Publication When Worker’s direct account – It may refer to the bottom 5%, and in some cases 10%.Workers are reportedly Too many “work on vacation” Or fail to work at Their target speed‘.

Workers prepare parcels at Rugeley Amazon Fulfillment Center (Photo courtesy of Nathan Stirk / Getty Images)

The Verge is a legal document obtained by Amazon in the United States Dismissed hundreds of workers In a year with a single warehouse for productivity related reasons. An Amazon spokesperson told The Verge, “Generally, employee layoffs have declined over the last two years at this facility and across North America.”

The Verge also states that Amazon will raise its goal when more than 75% of its workers reach it. Therefore, if a worker works too late, he or she will lose the job, but if he or she works fast enough, he or she will be forced to work even faster.

One of the documents obtained by The Verge was signed by a company lawyer, ensuring that the automated system tracks the speed of individual productivity and produces warnings or terminations “without input from the supervisor”. It was a letter.

In June 2021, Amazon US Vacation task policy, The company said, “it is easy to be misunderstood.” According to the company, the system is primarily aimed at understanding operational system issues, “only to identify employees with secondary poor performance.” Amazon said it would be an average holiday over a longer period, a change that would help achieve its vision of being “the safest workplace on the planet.”

Local involvement

In the UK, many of Amazon’s warehouses are located in smaller municipalities, such as Cannock Chase, home of Amazon’s Rugeley fulfillment center. The “Partnership Arrangement” is believed to imply that the municipality effectively acts on behalf of Amazon in connection with a third party making a request under the Information Disclosure Act.

Given that Amazon is a major job provider within the municipal area and may pay its authorities to provide advice, it could undermine Amazon’s role in regulation. There is a risk.

The Cannock Chase Council said that the partnership arrangement does not undermine Amazon’s ability to regulate and does not mean that the Cannock Chase Council will act on behalf of Amazon. If a request for freedom of information was made to them, they said they had a legal obligation to respond to them – and it does not form any part of the agreement with Amazon.

The increased risk to the well-being of Amazon’s fulfillment center employees requires action, but solving this problem is not easy.

Amazon Workers, Trade Unions, Campaign participants NS Ask the company for explanation Must be part of the solution.

Amazon did not respond to requests for comments or conversations asking for detailed questions about these public reports on injury rates and working conditions.

NS Tom Vickers, Senior Lecturer of Sociology and Convenor of Future Research Group for Work, Nottingham Trent University

This article will be republished from conversation Under a Creative Commons license.

Click here to read Original work..

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Black Friday for Amazon Staff: Labor Costs Behind Consumer Convenience

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