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Amazon.Com Is Accused of Abusive Work Conditions After BBC Secretly Videotapes Warehouse
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Is Amazon driving its workers so hard they risk “mental and physical illness”? That’s the opinion of Sir Michael Marmot, a top expert on the causes of stroke and heart disease at the University of London, after viewing video footage secretly recorded at Amazon’s mammoth warehouse in Swansea, Wales, by Adam Littler, an undercover reporter for the BBC who took a job at the facility.

Littler was employed as a “picker,” whose task was to search 800,000 square feet of storage space to find goods to fulfill Amazon customers’ orders. Littler was expected to walk as many as 11 miles per shift and to find a product for shipment every 33 seconds.

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.” Littler’s account will be aired in the BBC’s Panorama program shortly after 3:00 pm today, New York time. An article on his findings can be read here.

Professor Marmot, a former chairman of a British government committee on health and work issues, told the BBC the working conditions at the warehouse are “all the bad stuff at once.” He added: “It seems to me the demands of efficiency at the cost of an individual’s health and well-being – it’s got to be balanced.”

Amazon said government safety inspectors had raised no objections about the work and that an independent expert had ruled that Littler’s task was “similar to jobs in many other industries and does not increase the risk of mental and physical illness.”

It seems fair to say that Amazon’s work conditions are converging on those at Walmart, a company that Amazon is increasingly challenging for leadership of global retailing.

(Republished from Forbes by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Amazon.com 
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