Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Amazon: "Working in an Amazon warehouse feels like working in North Korea."

Amazon workers talked about the fear they have of the company & getting in serious trouble if they publicly talk about the working conditions that they endure with some comparing the company to North Korea due to how they are tracked, watched and monitored

I started to research the working conditions a few weeks ago at the Amazon fulfillment centres. These so-called fulfillment centres are the warehouses where the Amazon packages we receive are sorted.

The workers with whom I spoke to were insistent not to mention their names in any article. Very insistent due to a fear that they'll simply get sacked if they call out the working conditions at Amazon.

Why do they feel this way? Are Amazon monitoring what their workers say on social media? Certainly workers suspect that is the case.

They told me about the CCTV systems at the warehouses and how they believe - while at work - they are monitored all the time with everything they do tracked. It's not unusual for a workplace to have CCTV however the workers said at Amazon it was different - the way they were being monitored is on a whole new level.

Apparently there are a series of really draconian rules at the warehouses that the workers must obey. One includes banning languages other than English from being spoken.

An Italian speaker mentioned how he was not allowed to speak his language with a colleague. He said he reckons this is the case as managers want to know what workers are saying. 

Are Amazon managers listening to workers' conversations? This is certainly I question I'd like to have with Amazon bosses. 


Being Tracked Non-Stop

Workers are expected to work like robots to the point of exhaustion and if they don't, well they won't be working there much longer. 

Amazon maintain this system by tracking and monitoring workers to a real Orwellian level way with pressure put on workers if they don't make these super-hard targets. 

Breaks are monitored too. A worker mentioned how she would get two 30 min breaks a day (one is unpaid) and she'd get in trouble if she took even an extra minute of break. 

But what I was told that really hit me was the fear workers have to speak out. When they spoke to me, they really were asking me (even begging) not to mention their names or even the specific warehouse where they work due to a fear of getting in trouble.

Whether or not Amazon spy on what workers say about the company - this really deserves a deep investigation - but even if they don't, the culture at Amazon is so hostile that workers feel what they say about the company is being read. 

I spoke with a Trade Union official at the GMB who deals with Amazon. He told me that Amazon do act like a Dictatorship in how they want to give the public appearance that the working conditions are all fine at the warehouses. 

He told me about how Amazon do tours around their warehouses that resemble the tours the North Korean Government give to tourists coming to Pyongyang. 

When he was on a tour he was not allowed to see parts of the warehouse they did not want him to see, they made sure he did not go anywhere alone and all while having a subtle hostility to him as he is a trade unionist concerned with the conditions.

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