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Home > News > 2019 > March > Workers lift lid on horror Amazon warehouse conditions

Workers lift lid on horror Amazon warehouse conditions

Robot.jpgWorkers at Amazon’s Australian warehouse have lifted the lid on a culture built on fear where workers are treated like ‘robots’.


In an ABC News exposé workers revealed:

  • Their movements around the warehouse are timed to the second;
  • They are expected to move around the warehouse at a near-jogging pace;
  • Many do not take toilet breaks for fear of missing targets;
  • They could be sent home early without being paid for the rest of their shift when targets are met early; and
  • All workers are employed casually and are constantly in fear of whether or not they will receive another shift.

Amazon, which launched in the Australian market last year, employs its warehouse workers via labour hire company Adecco.


National Unions of Workers (NUW) National Secretary Tim Kennedy told the ABC that Amazon’s warehouse employed “unheard of” levels of casualisation.


“In a lot of the facilities where we represent workers, up to 40 per cent of the workers will be casual or labour hire, but nowhere have we ever found in Australia that a major company running its logistics supply chain uses 100 per cent labour hire casuals not employed by them directly,” Mr Kennedy said.


“It allows Amazon to have no legal obligation to workers in regards to unfair dismissal or any sense of job security.”


All Amazon workers who spoke to the ABC maintained their anonymity due to fear of reprisal. One worker spoke of feeling dehumanised by their workplace conditions.


“I feel like they resent the fact that I’m not a robot and that I’m made of flesh and bone,” the worker said.


Warehouse workers are tasked with storing, picking and packing tens of thousands of items each day. Amazon’s ‘next day delivery’ service is purportedly a driver behind conditions in its warehouse.


An Amazon warehouse ‘picker’ scans about 120 products an hour with the worker’s performance subsequently analysed based on their ‘pick rate’.


Staff say those who do not meet their pick rate targets are approached by supervisors and may not receive further shifts.


Amazon responded to the claims made in the ABC report by stating: “we strive to be a great employer in Australia and we believe we are making good progress but still have lots more to do.”


In the wake of the ABC exposé, Amazon announced it will create 500 permanent jobs in its Melbourne warehouse.


IEUA-QNT Assistant Secretary Brad Hayes said the shocking details reported by Amazon workers were sadly reflective of a broader erosion of workers’ rights.


“The current levels of worker exploitation and casualisation we are seeing in Australian workplaces is, frankly, a national crisis,” Mr Hayes said.


“Legislative protections for workers have been eroded to such a point that employers are able to simply outsource their responsibilities to labour hire firms without regard for employee welfare.”


Mr Hayes said it was time for a broad sweep of changes to Australia’s industrial laws to ensure workers are treated fairly and are empowered to bargain collectively through their unions for better wages and conditions.


“Unions are fighting hard to address the crisis of insecure work, stagnating wages and worker exploitation through the Change The Rules campaign,” Mr Hayes said.


“It’s time to restore balance in Australian workplaces and ensure workers’ right to a fair job with fair pay is once again enshrined in legislation.”


Read the full ABC exposé at this link


To find out more about the Change The Rules campaign, visit www.changetherules.org.au

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.