Amazon warehouse workers across Europe are planning to stage a coordinated Black Friday demonstrations in protest of "inhuman" and "robot" working conditions.
Hundreds of members of the British trade union GMB will stage demonstrations outside five Amazon fulfillment centers Friday, while warehouse employees in Spain and Italy are planning a 24-hour strike,
"The conditions our members at Amazon are working under are frankly inhuman," said GMB general secretary Tim Roache, who said that Amazon factory workers are "not robots," and noted that they have been breaking bones and being knocked unconscious, requiring ambulance rides to the hospital, according to BuzzFeed.
"Jeff Bezos is the richest bloke on the planet; he can afford to sort this out. You'd think making the workplace safer so people aren't carted out of the warehouse in an ambulance is in everyone’s interest, but Amazon seemingly have no will to get round the table with us as the union representing hundreds of their staff." said Roache. "We're standing up and saying enough is enough, these are people making Amazon its money. People with kids, homes, bills to pay — they're not robots."
The strikes may affect Amazon's nine days of Black Friday sale as GMB members protest in Rugley, Milton Keynes, Warrington, Peterborough and Swansea.
Amazon responded in a statement, saying "Our European Fulfillment Network is fully operational and we continue to focus on delivering for our customers. Any reports to the contrary are simply wrong."
The statement continues: "We are a fair and responsible employer. We believe in continuous improvement across our network and maintain an open and direct dialogue with our associates.
"These are good jobs with highly competitive pay, full benefits, and innovative training programs like Career Choice that pre-pays 95% of tuition for associates. In the UK, as an example, we recently increased the Amazon wage to start from £9.50 an hour and in the London are from £10.50 an hour."
In April of this year, however, journalist and author James Bloodworth reported what he saw after going undercover at an Amazon warehouse in Staffordshire, UK, where he found horrendous conditions in which some workers are forced to pee in bottles.
The warehouse measures 700,000 sq ft and some of the 1,200 workers face a ten minute, quarter-of-a-mile walk to two toilets on the ground floor of the four-storey building.
Undercover investigator James Bloodworth said: "For those of us who worked on the top floor, the closest toilets were down four flights of stairs."
Mr Bloodworth, who worked ten-hour shifts as a picker selecting goods for despatch, walked ten miles a day in the job to research for a book on low-wage Britain.
He claimed workers were continually monitored for time wasting by supervisors.
It meant workers operated a “toilet bottle” system.
Mr Bloodworth said: "People just peed in bottles because they lived in fear of being disciplined over ‘idle time’ and losing their jobs just because they needed the loo." -The Sun
“I’ve worked in warehouses before, but this was nothing like I had experienced. You don’t have proper breaks — by the time you get to the canteen, you only have 15 or 20 minutes for lunch, in a 10-1/2-hour working day. You don’t have time to eat properly to get a drink,” Bloodworth told Business Insider.
Conditions aren't much better in the United States, as we have reported on several occasions.
In 2011, the brutal work environment at an Amazon warehouse in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania were reported in the Morning Call.
Working conditions at Amazon's Lehigh Valley shipping hub gained national attention and a public response from the company after a Sept. 18 article in The Morning Call revealed employee complaints about heat in the warehouse complex and rapid production requirements many could not sustain. Amazon hired ambulance crews to park outside the complex on hot summer days in case workers experienced heat-related problems. A local emergency room doctor who treated Amazon workers for heat stress reported an "unsafe environment" to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which inspected and recommended corrective steps. -Morning Call.
In 2012, the Seattle Times published a blockbuster report about overworked, underpaid staff who were encouraged to lie about workplace injuries to avoid having to file reports.
Three former workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Campbellsville told The Seattle Times there was pressure to manage injuries so they would not have to be reported to OSHA, such as attributing workplace injuries to pre-existing conditions or treating wounds in a way that did not trigger federal reports.
“We had doctors who refused to work with us because they would have managers call and argue with them,” he said.
In 2015, the New York Times revealed that conditions at Amazon headquarters are cutthroat.
“Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” -Bo Olson
This seems to diverge from Amazon's claim to being a "fair and responsible employer."