British journalist James Bloodworth has worked undercover as a “picker” at Amazon UK to research his book on conditions in the low paid sector. One aspect of his 10-hour shifts has stood out in particular, it is about extreme time pressure in the shipping preparation of articles:
The camp staff peed in bottles for fear of being disciplined for “idling”. They did not want to lose their jobs because they had to go to the bathroom.
Bloodworth also reports that the nearest toilet in the 65,000-square-foot warehouse was so far away that it took ten minutes to walk to the loo on foot.
Bottles instead of toilets: Amazon denied
These experiences are in line with similar reports on working conditions at Amazon, such as those gathered by the employee rights platform “Organize“. There, employees tell of strictly regulated breaks and high penalties when breaks are exceeded – anyone who comes five times out of the break two minutes too late will be dismissed. At peak times, warehouse staff would have to handle 120 to 140 items per hour, which is almost impossible.
Amazon has already denied the allegations against the magazine Business Insider: toilet breaks would not be recorded in time and the work objectives were derived from the benefits of the past. “We focus on providing a great work environment to all of our employees. Amazon offers public tours through its fulfillment centers so customers can see first-hand what happens when they click ‘buy’ on Amazon.”
Everything only half as bad?
Everything has to happen very quickly – are we, as customers, jointly responsible for working conditions, as described by James Bloodworth?
Perhaps there could also be another point that, if the reports are correct, could serve as an explanation for why camp staff use bottles instead of going to the bathroom. Because of the high-security standards, regular checks are carried out “like at the airport”.
If you urgently need to go to the bathroom, you may want to go to the bottle at the workplace, instead of running for minutes and then have to go through the “check-in” – even if this would not be deducted from the break time. That would just be more convenient and would have nothing to do with fear of punishment.
Who has experience as an employee in a large warehouse and can report about it? Write in the comments.
Ikechukwu Onu is a writer, front-end dev, and digital junkie with a profound interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets or apps, he enjoys contributing in groups and forums, tinkering with websites, and hanging out with friends.