Amazon Employees Have to Pee in Bottles Under Horrendous Working Conditions


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  • A story from The Sun says that workers at an Amazon warehouse in the UK frequently pee in plastic bottles to avoid the appearance of taking too much time out of the work day.

    The report comes from journalist James Bloodworth, who says he spent 6 months working undercover in an Amazon warehouse, while working on a book about low-paying jobs in England. According to Bloodworth, many of the workers in the massive warehouse faced a “10 minute, quarter-of-a-mile walk to two toilets on the ground floor of the four-story building.” And since supervisors are always checking to make sure workers are being efficient, a 20-minute walk just to pee is often out of the question.

    Bloodworth says warehouse employees walk 10 miles during an average 10-hour shift, and don’t frequently take breaks so they can hit fulfillment “targets.”

    Amazon, however, defended itself in a statement to Business Insider. They said: “Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don’t recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.”

    But, uh oh, there’s a whole bunch of evidence that says that’s not the case. In 2016, Gawker reported on the mindnumbing, stressful work of an Amazon employee, and how they pressured to “make rate.” One employee wrote: “We had to unpack and repack a certain number of product per hour. Our UPH, or units per hour, was what determined whether or not we’d get a talking to by one of our many bosses.” And often, that rate was impossible to reach, depending on the product.

    According to a survey conducted by the UK nonprofit Organise, one of the biggest issues facing warehouse workers are excessively “high (and ever increasing) targets.” These employees work in constant fear of being fired if they ever fall behind. Some quotes from that survey are really disturbing. One employee said: “I do not drink water because I do not have time to go to the toilet.” Another said she got points for getting sick while she was pregnant.

    Oh, and those “points” aren’t good. Amazon employees get points when they do something wrong — it’s like getting “written up” at a retail job. If an employee gets a certain number of points, they’re fired.

    74% of employees said they’ve avoided going to the bathroom at work, and 81% said knowing what they know now, they would not apply for a job there again.

    So, Amazon has long been not a great place to be a warehouse worker, but there’s really not much chance this is going to change any time soon. Amazon has pretty frequently gotten away with subpar employee treatment. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that temp agencies were not required to pay Amazon workers for time they spent waiting to go through a 25-minute security screening at the end of the day. And in 2017, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Amazon had violated labor laws in not dispensing overtime.

    Basically, it’s kind of sucks to work for Amazon, but everything they’re doing (in the U.S. at least) is probably legal. But we’re not going to get into a whole thing about the U.S. having really shitty requirements for workers, and how other developed countries have awesome things like paid parental leave, extended vacations, mandated sick pay, better unemployment benefits, etc.

    What do you guys think? Does Amazon have any incentive to change the working conditions at their fulfillment centers? Let us know in the comments.

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