UK unions denounce ‘exploitative’ working conditions at Amazon

LONDON: Two unions on Monday called on the British government to demand that Amazon improve working conditions for its employees, using the state’s vast “purchasing power” as leverage.

The TUC and GMB general trade unions denounced “exploitative” working practises at the online retailer in a report published Monday.

It highlighted “gruelling conditions, unrealistic productivity targets, surveillance, bogus self-employment and a refusal to recognise or engage with unions unless forced”.

The British state and devolved governments have awarded Amazon £630 million in public contracts between 2015 and 2020, according to the report.

“If ministers are serious about improving lives they must help ‘level up’ working conditions at places like Amazon,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

“Public contracts should not reward bad working practices. The government must use its purchasing power to ensure people are given dignity at work and a wage they can live on.”

Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said workers in Amazon warehouses were “being taken away in ambulances, forced to go to the toilet using bins and bottles and are now contracting Covid while packed into warehouses like sardines”.

The report should serve as a warning “to the public sector that it can no longer turn a blind eye to Amazon’s exploitative practices and appalling health and safety record”, Rix said.

“It’s time for UK government and safety regulators to either tell Amazon’s management to put their house in order or send them packing,” he added.

An Amazon spokesman told AFP that “critics seem determined to paint a false picture of what it’s like to work for Amazon”.

“They repeat the same sensationalised allegations time and time again,” the spokesman said.