Television documentaries, investigations, analysis in the media have reported the demanding working conditions of Amazon staff in their huge warehouses and upon delivery drivers year after year.
I recall one Amazon worker, a single mum, telling me of her experience. While loading items into a trolley, she stopped for 20 seconds or so to say a few words to another member of staff pushing a trolley as she passed by.
The surveillance team told her to report immediately to the office looking down on the workers. The surveillance camera had spotted her 20 second break from removing items off the shelf onto her trolley. She was told that if she “wasted company time again” Amazon would sack her.
In an Amazon vehicle delivering in my street, I saw numerous boxes inside. I asked the Amazon delivery driver in the middle of the afternoon how many more deliveries he had left to go. He said about 60 and he would have to return to the house if the owner was out on certain goods to get the customer’s date of birth, such as alcohol. I live in a rural area with lengthy drives between small towns, villages and farms. That is pressure to fulfill all deliveries in a day.
“We are not robots,” workers at Amazon often say.
This summer Amazon announced it has taken steps to reduce the pressure on the workers. This is welcome. First, the steps need to address key issues for the workers. Amazon has introduced mindfulness practices in a room in the warehouse. It is called – wait for it – AMAZEN. There are no reports of Amazon’s overworked staff appealing for such a room.
Amazon have named their initiative as WorkingWell claiming WorkingWell has reduced stress and the repetitive strain injuries of workers.
Workers have different priorities to Amazen to enable them to work well in the warehouses. They would prefer spending less than 8 -12 hours a day on their feet, a reduction of the physical pressure in handling goods and a reduction in keeping to the quotas they are set. Staff have appealed frequently for a proper break to use the toilet.
Workers would prefer a decent wage and caring working conditions rather than only being offered a session in a mindfulness booth. The media reports drivers complain at the lack of toilet facilities for them at Amazon with reports of plastic bottles used to urinate.
Amazon mounted a campaign that stopped workers in its Alabama warehouses from forming a union.
Experience in the Zen Booth
The word room seems ambitious. Workers refer to it as a booth or a kiosk. Amazon bosses proudly claim that employees can go to the room to focus on their mental wellbeing.
Television advertisements of happy warehouse workers telling viewers of their wonderful experience working for Amazon seems unconvincing.
In the booth, workers can listen to a guided meditation, hear positive affirmations and watch calming scenes so they can feel renewed when getting back to work. Amazon says the booth provides videos to watch on mindfulness practices for mental health for workers.
The space consists of a small desk with a single monitor, a few shelves with plants and a fan. Instead of referring to it as a Zen room as Amazon wants, journalists have referred cynically to the booth as a screaming box, a despair chamber or a coffin for employees.
As Amazon accumulated $billions month by month during the pandemic, workers found themselves stressed to meet Amazon Prime assurance of next day delivery to millions of customers. Staff wages and working conditions have remained the same. Amazon bosses need to bring mindfulness to bear on these issues.
Their supreme boss, CEO Jeff Bezos has taken flight. He stepped down last month (July 2021) so he could concentrate on space travel and other interests. He spent $5.5 billion for his first space flight which lasted 11 minutes. It is ironic that Bezos flies out into space for a few minutes while offering workers a few minutes to find well-being in a restricted space.
By stepping down as CEO, he avoids dealing with the widespread criticism of his ruthless business methods to maximise an intense work schedule for his workers and maximise profit from those who sell their products on Amazon. Amazon offers a low return to companies, large or small. I know.
Amazon sells my books. Yes, I buy books and other items on Amazon.
I use Facebook, Whats App, Twitter, mobile phone etc. I criticise $billions vaccination businesses and their staggering profits.
I make no apologies for the critiques and campaigning for change while making use of these global empires.
Neither should you.
I have been a customer of Amazon since 1998. I cannot recall returning a purchase. Amazon provides (mostly) a fine customer service, prompt and helpful including uploading books of authors etc. Amazon could provide the same service with a well-supported staff engaged in a reasonable workload and improved hourly payments.
USA government and the EU believes Amazon engages in anti-trust practices – primarily crushing competition. Amazon needs to be broken up to enable a range of similar services to operate. Facebook and Google also crush competition needing root and branch change.
Amazon staff do an amazing job, work hard and ensure the smooth flow of goods and services to customers. They deserve better in terms of wages, working conditions and gratitude from the bosses. Amazon also provides programmes for students and others. The company is starting to use electric vans. One day we might change our view of Amazon but that is some way away