Wright left his job a few weeks later, citing the intolerable demands placed on drivers by the depot rules. However, the online giant is accused of profiting on the back of its depot workers, who complain of poor pay, long hours and risky conditions with no employment benefits.
They claim long, unpredictable hours and transport costs mean that pay can amount to less than the minimum wage. “I was shown an online contract on a mobile phone to read and sign at an induction day and it was only when the paperwork came through that I realized I’d committed to working without pay until I’d clocked up £1,500, which they retained as a deposit,” he says.
According to Dawson, the length of the routes and the number of parcels made it impossible to complete the job in a nine-hour shift. “Sometimes in country lanes you’d lose signal for your Dora and you’d be lost in the middle of nowhere, peeing into a plastic bottle because there was no chance to take a break,” he says.
Although shifts are advertised as a maximum of four hours, she claims they can take longer as the number of parcels and length of the routes are increasing. Flex drivers are paid overtime, but this year, she says, it was halved to £6.50 an hour which, when fuel and tolls are factored in, can mean working at a loss.
The GMB argues the drivers are legally employees because of the terms of their contracts and should therefore be entitled employment benefits such as paid sick and holiday leave. Last year, UK Express Logistics and its sister company UK Express Delivery settled out of court as the union brought a case demanding employment rights on behalf of a group of drivers contracted to deliver Amazon parcels.
“ Amazon relies on zero -hours contracts to avoid employer costs and responsibilities,” says GMB national officer Mick RIX. “It is important to the success of the business that we work hard to ensure drivers are treated well and will investigate any concerns where someone believes this is not the case,” he says.
Amazon says its technology takes into account traffic conditions and expected rest breaks when assigning routes to ensure that drivers can complete their deliveries safely within a shift. We are committed to ensuring that the people contracted by our independent delivery providers and individuals who deliver packages through the Amazon Flex program are fairly compensated and are treated with respect, and this is reflected by the positive feedback we receive from drivers every day.
He is the largest shareholder in the company that began in 1994 as an online bookseller but eventually grew into a globally dominant all-purpose retailer. Earlier this month, it emerged that MacKenzie Bezos, now the ex-wife of Jeff (both are pictured), gave away 75% of her stake in the company and all voting rights to the billionaire entrepreneur as part of their divorce settlement.
The settlement means that Amazon will be spared the kind of boardroom battle that has plagued other companies whose owners are dealing with family rifts. Channel 4 News spoke to a dozen ex-employees at Amazon ’s massive packing warehouse in Hugely, east Midlands, who were angry at how the internet sales giant treated them.
Amazon has invested more than £9.3 billion in its UK Operations since 2010 and has a dedicated and enthusiastic workforce who play a crucial role in delivering a first-rate level of service for our customers. This year Amazon has pledged to create 2,500 new permanent roles across the country, bringing its full time workforce to 27,500, at its UK Head Office in London; three Development Centers in Cambridge, Edinburgh and London; its Customer Service Center in Edinburgh; fulfillment centers across England, Scotland and Wales; more than 40 delivery stations nationwide; the Fashion Photography Studio in Shore ditch, and to run the Amazon Web Services (AWS) UK Data Center Region.
People are employed in a range of positions in Amazon ’s fulfillment centers, from operations managers to engineers, HR and IT roles to employees who handle customer orders. Our European network means that Amazon customers in the UK can choose from millions of products stored in our fulfillment centers across Europe.
The minimum wage is £10.50 for the London area and £9.50 for the rest of the UK for all full-time, part-time, temporary (including those hired by agencies), and seasonal employees. Employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package, including private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, subsidized meals and an employee discount, which combined are worth more than £700 annually, as well as a company pension plan.
Amazon has also introduced Career Choice, an innovative education program which prepays 95% of tuition and associated fees for permanent employees to undertake nationally recognized courses and funds up to £8,000 over four years. Outside the Christmas period, the majority of our total UK fulfillment center workforce is made up of permanent employees.
This shift pattern helps us improve our ability to provide fast delivery for our customers and gives employees another day for free time and social activities. We continually monitor our practices and procedures to improve health and safety in our sites and focus continually on reducing risk, increasing consistency, improving systems and providing our employees with the skills they can use within and outside our business.
Safety is one of the reasons LinkedIn recently ranked Amazon #7 on its UK Top Companies list. Productivity targets are set objectively, based on previous performance levels achieved by our workforce.
Employee performance is measured and evaluated over a long period of time as we know that a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour. We continuously work to streamline our processes and eliminate defects, and we empower all our employees to innovate to help achieve this.
We use many systematic methods to make work processes easier and more efficient, including the “Kaiden” program, derived from the Japanese term meaning “change for the better”. In every fulfillment center, management spend an hour every day carrying out a ‘Gemma Walk’.
This enables management to hear from employees directly as they review every area and process in the fulfillment center. Management and employees then work together to decide and prioritize outcomes from the Gemma Walk displaying these on a noticeboard to clearly communicate next steps.
An ex- Amazon employee who had a stillborn child recalled how she had “just experienced the most devastating event in my life” but was then told by the company that she was being put on a performance-improvement plan. A woman suffering from breast cancer was also put on the plan, as she was told “difficulties” in her “personal life” were interfering with her work.
Molly Jay, who worked in the Kindle team, said she was given high performance ratings for years until she started caring for her father when he was dying of cancer. A worker who miscarried twins went on a business trip the day after having surgery when her boss allegedly told her: “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done.
Former Amazon engineer Jason Murkowski, 42, said: “The sheer number of innovations means things go wrong, you need to rectify, and then explain, and heaven help if you got an email from Jeff. Other former staff, including BO Olson, who worked at Amazon in a book-marketing role for less than two years, said they regularly witnessed people in tears in the office.
Dina NASCAR, who joined Amazon in 2008 to sell gift cards, said: “One time I didn’t sleep for four days straight. Stephanie Landry, an operations executive, sounded “exhilarated”, The New York Times said, as she described how she helped set up a new delivery system.
“A customer was able to get an Elsa doll that they could not find in all of New York City, and they had it delivered to their house in 23 minutes,” she said. Such attitudes are forged by practices such as the organization level review, which was described as a “semi-open tournament” akin to a court case in which managers debate their staff’s performance, with the worst losing their jobs in a process known as “rank and yank”.
A marketer who worked in the retail division for six years said: “You learn how to diplomatically throw people under the bus… It’s a horrible feeling.” And Susan Parker, Amazon ’s top recruiter, who was given permission to speak to The New York Times, said the support she had received when her husband got cancer “took my breath away”.
Journalist James Blood worth spent six months undercover as he tried some of Britain’s most notorious low-paid jobs, which also included Uber. After an afternoon’s training, he began working 10.5-hour shifts at the Amazon warehouse in Hugely, Stafford shire.
The vast site is the size of 10 football pitches and James’ job was to pick orders from the shelves as they came through. In a fascinating interview with James O'Brien, the journalist added that he was hired on a temporary contract, which would often last no longer than nine months.
Outside the Christmas period, the majority of our total UK fulfillment center workforce is made up of permanent employees. “During the holidays, temporary employees play a critical role in helping meet increased demand from customers.