Wednesday, 30 Nov 2022

I just want to live: how UK Amazon workers came to brink of strike

I just want to live: how UK Amazon workers came to brink of strike


I just want to live: how UK Amazon workers came to brink of strike

"I don't want Jeff Bezos's boat, I definitely don't want his rocket - but I just want to live," says George (not his real name), who works at Amazon's vast Coventry "fulfilment centre", and has become involved in organising workers there.

"I shouldn't have to work 60 hours a week just to pay bills," he says. "I've got kids. Kids need shoes, school uniform; they need to eat. I had a debt collector send me a letter. I phoned them back and we went through my wages and my outgoings and she said, 'I don't know how you're staying alive'."

Describing the working environment inside the warehouse, he says: "To be fair, I've worked in worse places. The facilities are quite good."

But he adds: "It's more about how you are treated; so having to stand for 10 hours a day. If you're caught sitting down, you get what's called an 'adapt', which is like a six-week warning. That sits on your record, and if you're caught doing it again, you're out the door. It just plays mind games with you."

The staff, who work round the clock in shifts, sort thousands of products into "totes", to be sent on to another Amazon fulfilment centre, packaged up into individual orders, and then dispatched out to customers - and are given strict targets to meet.

"It changes by the size of the item. So if you've got small items like jewellery or something, you've got to do about 350 an hour. It's like dealing cards. And then if you're doing big items, like a toaster, it's probably 45-50 an hour."

He recalls one day in the summer when he and his colleagues, who worked throughout the Covid pandemic, were told their annual pay increase would be 50p an hour. Outraged, they staged a spontaneous protest, gathering in the staff canteen.

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