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Amazon staff work seven-day week without sick leave

By Barry Collins

Posted on 15 Dec 2008 at 09:29

Amazon is forcing British staff to work a seven-day week in the run-up to Christmas and threatening to sack them if they take time off sick, according to a newspaper report.

The Sunday Times sent an undercover journalist to work at the online shopping giant's warehouse in Bedfordshire, following a tip-off about draconian working conditions.

The reporter found that the casual staff employed by the company over the Christmas period were made to work an overnight shift on a Saturday night, following a normal working week - effectively meaning that staff were working every day of the week.

Casuals were banned from taking sick leave, with workers being awarded a penalty point for taking a day off, even with a doctor's sick note. Employees are fired after amassing six points.

The undercover reporter also found that staff were being set productivity quotas that even management described as "ridiculous". One member of staff had to pack 140 Xbox consoles an hour to qualify for a bonus payment. Bonuses were only handed out if all the members of the team hit their targets.

Amazon, like many retailers, employs thousands of relatively cheap, temporary staff to help meet peak demand over the Christmas period. The Sunday Times reporter was paid £6.30 an hour for a day shift - just over 50p above the minimum wage - but staff had to pay £8.50 a day for bus travel to and from the out-of-town warehouse if they didn't have their own transport.

An Amazon spokesman told The Sunday Times that anyone not willing to work "many hours" should not accept a job with the company.

"Every single member of the workforce, be that a temporary picker in Marston Gate, a permanent packer in Gourock, a customer service representative in Cork or a product manager in our Slough head office, is currently working flat out to ensure that our millions of customers receive the products that they have ordered on time this Christmas," Allan Lyall, vice president of EU operations for Amazon said in a statement to the newspaper.

"Demand for permanent roles from our temporary employees is at such a high level that we no longer need to recruit externally for permanent positions. Indeed, we have already seen well over 100 temporary employees become permanent this year alone."

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