In Brief

Amazon accused of treating workers like slaves

Past employees offer damning criticism of web giant

Amazon has been accused of treating staff like “slaves” by former workers at the web giant’s largest UK depot.

Michael Gabay, who said he completed “100 days of hell” at the company’s vast UK depot in Tilbury, Essex, told the Daily Mirror that employees “walk around like zombies” in ten-hour shifts with limited breaks.

Gabay, who did not pass his probation period, claimed that it is not uncommon for staff on £10.50 an hour to feel ill from exhaustion. He said tired workers locked themselves in toilets to sleep.

He asked: “Why are people treated like this? [Amazon boss] Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world and this his how his company is run.”

Workers who fell ill were refused ambulances and sent to a first aid station instead, he claims, adding that he saw pregnant women being given no help despite being in pain.

One woman claims that she was discipined while six months pregnant for not hitting packing targets of 120 items an hour. She said: “I couldn’t go any faster. They’re always putting pressure on.”

Another woman in her 50s also told the newspaper that management refused to call an ambulance when she was “screaming in pain” on the floor after a heavy package fell on her.

And a third says she was dismissed after suffering a work injury and management clocked every minute she was absent, including toilet breaks. She said: “It’s modern slavery in there.”

Amazon told the Mirror: “We do not recognise these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our building.

“Tilbury fulfilment centre is a safe and positive workplace. Safety is our No. 1 priority and we take the wellbeing of our associates extremely seriously.

“We will always call an ambulance if one is required. Our team of on-site first-aiders follow NHS guidance when an ambulance should be called.” 

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However, the company, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, has faced extensive criticism for its working conditions. Last year, journalist James Bloodworth published a book, Hired, detailing his experiences working undercover at a Staffordshire Amazon warehouse, which he compared to a prison.

His descriptions of poor treatment, invasive security checks and relentless targets, which force workers to give up breaks – and even visits to the toilet – have been echoed by past and current employees.

Amazon issued an extensive denial to the claims, insisting it “provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK” and does not monitor toiler breaks. At the time it pointed to its ranking as LinkedIn’s seventh best place to work in Britain - and this year it topped the list.

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