Retailer accused of oppressive and callous attitude to staff
Life at Amazon sounds bleak, according to a devastating, 5,900-word expose by The New York Times.
The global internet retailer founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, which paid just £11.9m in tax in Britain last year despite UK sales of £5.3bn, has previously been accused of treating warehouse staff in the UK “like cattle” as they are driven to work harder.
However, it’s claimed that their counterparts in the US have faced even tougher conditions. Staff in a Pennsylvania warehouse allegedly worked in temperatures in the high 30s Celsius – as ambulances waited outside to take them away when they collapsed – and air conditioning was only fitted after newspaper reports.
Former office staff at the company’s headquarters in Seattle also spoke of working 80-hour weeks, getting emails from the office while on holiday or late at night, oppressive scrutiny of performance, and callous disregard for personal crises.
An ex-Amazon employee who had a stillborn child recalled how she had “just experienced the most devastating event in my life” but was then told by the company that she was being put on a performance-improvement plan. This, she told The New York Times, was “to make sure my focus stayed on my job”.
The US newspaper described the plan as effectively a warning that the employee was in danger of being fired.
Even the former human resources executive who was required to put the woman on the plan said she had questioned whether it was the right thing to do.
“What kind of company do we want to be?” she asked her bosses at the time.
This was just one of a litany of similar accounts.