As the workers of online retail giant Amazon hold strikes in the United Kingdom over pay, some have shared their ordeal of working in “severe” conditions at the company, with shocking claims that even their toilet breaks are timed. A BBC report cited workers at the company’s Coventry warehouse in England who said they are constantly monitored and “upbraided for an idle time lasting just a few minutes”.
Two workers associated with UK’s general trade body GMB revealed to BBC that Amazon uses a mechanism to recognise “great performance”. BBC quoted Darren Westwood and Garfield Hilton saying that managers can even throw questions over workers’ toilet trips. “The robots in the warehouse are treated better than us,” one of them claimed.
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“The thing with stopping work is that they want to know why,” said Hilton. Being a diabetes patient, he said that it’s not easy to find toilets close to warehouse premises and the process can take around 15 minutes but that invites the ire of the managers who will question, “what were you doing?” If that time surpasses a couple of minutes, the supervisors can see it on the system. The report added they keep a track of workers’ performance and the time that is “not spent scanning items is accrued”.
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On performance measures, an Amazon spokesperson told BBC, “performance is only measured when an employee is at their station and logged in to do their job. If an employee logs out, which they can do at any time, the performance management tool is paused”. He also said the company encourages coaching practices to help employees attain performance targets.
The claims come amid when 300 staff of a total of 1,500 walked out of the UK’s Coventry warehouse over “insulted” pay on Wednesday. Pointing to founder Jeff Bezos’ billions of fortunes, Westwood said, “We don’t want his boat or his rockets, we just want to be able to live.” The workers claimed that some of them were forced to work up to 60-hour weeks to keep up with the cost of living in the crisis-ridden UK battling 41-year high inflation.