Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/790/17823
TV review: Amazon's exploitation exposed
The conditions revealed in Panorama's exposé on working conditions in Swansea Amazon came as no surprise to Socialist Party members.
I submitted an article to the Socialist in September, based on the experiences of an agency worker employed by Amazon over the Christmas period.
The programme concentrated on the physical strain, with the 'picker' the BBC placed in the site having to walk up to eleven miles on a night shift.
It also exposed the mental strain of constantly trying to meet targets which, for many of the workers spoken to, seemed barely possible.
Targets took no account of different distances of items to be picked. Sometimes automated lights failed, leaving the picker trying to find items in the dark.
As we pointed out in the Socialist, 'points mean P45s' with workers picking up disciplinary points for sickness, errors and failing to meet the impossible targets.
With Amazon taking on 1,500 workers in Swansea and 15,000 across the UK for the Christmas period, workers are told that only those with the best records stand a chance of being kept on after Christmas.
Expert legal opinion on Panorama even challenged whether the length of the shift filmed, with such constant mental and physical strain, is within the law.
The programme answered one of the questions we posed in September about the level of support from the Welsh Government given to Amazon in order to bring their brand of exploitation to Wales. Amazon received a grant of £8.8 million towards the cost of the Swansea warehouse.
There was also the construction of the Ffordd Amazon access road with, according to Panorama, £4.9 million of Welsh Government funding.
Amazon, a company that pays little or no tax in the UK, is being heavily subsidised by politicians of all mainstream parties.
The appalling conditions at Amazon are definitely connected to the lack of union organisation and involvement in health and safety.
The programme interviewed GMB union general secretary, Paul Kenny, who was damning about conditions but failed to outline a strategy for unionising the workforce.
Swansea Socialist Party members have been contacted by student activists in the city who are already collecting stories of students who've worked in Amazon on the same sort of casual conditions exposed last night. They are discussing organising a protest outside Amazon over the Christmas period.
Amazon's practices need to be exposed but what is desperately needed is for the workers to be organised in a union.
In order for casual workers to be inspired to join a union, they have to be convinced that whichever union aims to recruit there has a strategy and the determination to take Amazon on.
Victories can be won over casualisation by aggressive bosses - just look at the victories won by Hovis workers, organised by the BFAWU. That's what is needed at Amazon now!
In The Socialist 27 November 2013:
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party review