In Brief

Amazon workers 'sleeping in tents' to save money

Undercover reporter reportedly received less than minimum wage once agency transport was deducted

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Amazon has come under fire over its working practices again after claims that agency staff at its warehouse in Fife are sleeping in tents to save money.

Scotland's The Courier newspaper reports that three tents were spotted in woods close to the centre just off the M90 in Dunfermline.

One of the occupants, who said he worked at the site, described Amazon as a "poor employer" and said they were sleeping in the tents because it was cheaper than commuting.

An undercover expose published separately by the Sunday Times claimed agency staff in the warehouse can get less than the minimum wage if they use the agency bus to get to work, at a cost of £10 per day.

The company said all workers are paid £7.35 per hour, above the national living wage rate, and overtime is £11 per hour.

According to the Sunday Times, agency workers are also subjected to harsh treatment including a "points" system lateness and sickness that can lead to dismissal after four days off.

A handbook given to new agency staff states that being 30 seconds late to work equates to half a point, while a day off sick is one point. Amassing four to six points "can result in dismissal". 

The paper says: "In one case, a woman who spent three days in hospital with a kidney infection was docked two points, reduced to one on appeal, despite providing a hospital note."

Amazon said the information given to new temporary recruits is incorrect and that it has launched an internal review. 

It added that "an employee with six points under the attendance system would be spoken to for an understanding of why those points had been accrued, but would not automatically be dismissed".

The company denied wider accusations of poor treatment of workers, saying it "provides a safe and positive workplace with competitive pay and benefits from day one".

Around 20,000 agency workers have been hired to cover the Christmas period, says The Guardian

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP, who has repeatedly criticised Amazon over its working practices, said the firm should receive no more public money until it improves conditions.

Last month, Amazon faced criticism over its treatment of agency delivery drivers, who it was claimed were effectively paid less than the minimum wage, required to work illegal hours and not even able to stop for toilet breaks.

It has been argued these and other cases, such as alleged working conditions at Sports Direct, highlight the problem of companies using agency staff to fill most roles and offering fewer employment rights.

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