Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/929/24104
From The Socialist newspaper, 14 December 2016
Amazon workers living in tents
Fight for a £10 an hour minimum wage
photo Scott Lewis/Creative Commons (Click to enlarge)
Tessa Warrington, Leicester Socialist Party
In the latest shocking revelations about online retail giant Amazon, accused of "intolerable working conditions," workers were apparently found sleeping in tents near its Dunfermline depot.
Commuting has been made impossible by eleven-hour shifts and low pay. Afraid of losing their jobs, camping in the dead of winter was the last option.
An undercover Times journalist also exposed horrific practices inside the warehouse, including punishing staff for ill health. Workers are given points for 'poor behaviour' - taking sick leave and missing superhuman performance targets.
After six points they are sacked. This is irrespective of doctors' notes or medical emergencies. One staff member was hospitalised for three days with a kidney infection but still received a point!
Staff can walk over ten miles a day, and water dispensers are apparently often empty. They suffer myriad injuries from unsafely stored stock, and impossible targets causing rushing.
Given Amazon's cosy relationship with the Tories, we can expect nothing less. The president of Amazon China was appointed to the Department for Work and Pensions board of directors earlier this year. And in 2013, Amazon received more in government grants than it paid in tax!
We cannot rely on the bosses and their Tory allies to do anything for workers. There is a clear need for trade union organisation in Amazon, and a serious fight to improve terms and conditions.
Last year, general union GMB rightly claimed the company's regime was responsible for physical and mental illness.
Amazon has since hired 20,000 agency staff to cover the peak Christmas season, more than doubling its workforce. Where there is a profit to be made, the tax-dodgers can find money to hire more staff - but not to pay decent wages or ensure health and safety.
Key demands should include permanent contracts for all year-round workers, and direct employment for all agency staff. Hire enough permanent workers to do the job safely, shorten shifts with no loss of take-home pay, and end the draconian points system.
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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.
The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.
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In The Socialist 14 December 2016:
Socialist Party news and analysis
NHS crisis: we're fighting back!
End the Tories' war on the working poor
Amazon workers living in tents
Pfizer drug extortion - nationalise big pharma!
Trust in politicians reaches all-time low
No to home seizures for care bills
Them & Us
What we think
Establishment EU crisis deepens - fight for a socialist Brexit
A socialist programme for education
What kind of education?
Education for all - not exam factories
International socialist news and analysis
CWI: opportunities for substantial growth
Workplace news and analysis
Glasgow Labour leaders deluged with protests
Victory for UPS parcel workers
Nationalise Tata Steel to save jobs and pensions
Bin workers strike against draconian management
Derby TAs to strike against pay cut
Southern: back the strike, nationalise the railways!
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Birmingham Labour: Corbyn supporters need not apply
The Socialist Party and fighting women's oppression
Doncaster: cuts give rise to 'tent city'
Scrooge Tory council confronted over treatment of homeless
Comment and review
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