Complaints from Amazon warehouse workers spiked during Prime Day

24 Jul 2018

Amazon distribution centre in Leeds, UK. Image: James W Copeland/Shutterstock 

Amazon Prime Day was a financial success for the company, but workplace complaints from warehouse staff spiked, ranging from musculoskeletal injuries to dehydration.

Last week, savvy customers took advantage of deals offered by Amazon as part of its Prime Day event, which turned out to be a record-breaker. More than 100m products were sold during the event, but it was not without its obstacles.

Strikes across Europe highlighted stories of allegedly poor working conditions, while some consumers in the US protested the sale of white supremacist paraphernalia on Amazon’s third-party marketplace.

A site outage also caused some degree of inconvenience, but this did not get in the way of deal-hungry customers.

Worker complaints increased

According to a report in Wiredworkplace campaigning platform Organise saw health and safety complaints from Amazon UK workers leap by 209pc. Lead campaigner at Organise, Usman Mohammed, said: “The increased pace and increased targets means three times the packing for some people. Even for slight workplace injuries, the rise in pain is exponential.”

Complaints received ranged from stomach cramps caused by overexertion to a lack of access to water and too few bathroom breaks. One warehouse worker based in the UK midlands said: “It was worst in picking – we were picking items and sending them to customers faster than fast. In my opinion, targets are not touchable any more.

“We have to break rules about health and safety to meet them. Almost all employees have problems with productivity and back pain. It’s very hot until 3pm or 4pm but people avoid drinking water so to not need to go to the toilet.”

Another worker claimed that reaching even three-quarters of the Prime Day targets was only achievable by running. “You have to waste time and disregard safety to keep up.”

Amazon says allegations are inaccurate

An Amazon spokesperson said the allegations were inaccurate, citing the creation of seasonal jobs in the UK to meet customer demands around Prime Day. They added: “Organise do not appear to carry out any checks to confirm whether or when respondents worked at the companies being surveyed, and there is no way for Organise to check if their responses reflect current or previous ways of working.”

According to freedom of information (FOI) requests to ambulance services published by UK union GMB, ambulances had been called 600 times to Amazon warehouses in the past three years. A series of coordinated personal injury claims are set to be backed by GMB this autumn, so the tech giant may need to discuss these issues in court.

The allegations raised are far from confined to the European locations. Towards the end of 2017, a New Jersey Amazon warehouse worker told TheStreet: “I feel that Amazon sees its employees just as bodies and does not truly value the work they do.”

The company said: “While any serious incident is one too many, we learn and improve our programmes working to prevent future incidents. We don’t recognise these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.”

Amazon distribution centre in Leeds, UK. Image: James W Copeland/Shutterstock 

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects