Retail giant Amazon made news last week when it an announced an across-the-board wage increase to $15 an hour for all employees – however it is now under increasing pressure to pay “urgent attention” to its workplace safety record.
In April 2018, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) identified Amazon as a “Dirty Dozen” company in a widely-cited report. There has been seven deaths at the company’s warehouses since 2013, including three fatalities in five weeks between September and October 2017. Further to this, a recent GMB union investigation revealed more than 440 serious health and safety incidents at Amazon warehouses have been reported to the Health & Safety Executive since 2015-16.
The National COSH report claims Amazon workers suffer injuries – and sometimes lose their lives – in a work environment with “a relentless demand to fill orders and close monitoring of employee actions.” According to official workplace accident reports, workers have suffered fractures, head injuries, contusions, collisions with heavy equipment.
GMB general secretary Tim Roache accused Amazon of treating its workers like robots and said the figures gave a “horrifying insight” into the company’s warehouse conditions.
“No one should go to work worried about being knocked unconscious or breaking bones.”
“This is a multi-billion pound company owned by the richest man in the world. You have to ask yourself whether it’s a deliberate decision to sacrifice safety to keep the bottom line growing, because I can’t see why else you’d tolerate these conditions.”
National COSH co-executive director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, said that while Amazon employers desperately needed a pay rise, the pay increase is “worth a lot more if you come home in one piece at the end of your shift.”
National COSH safety and health project consultant Peter Dooley said the start of Amazon’s busy holiday shipping season would further increase workplace safety risks.
“The pressure to move products will be intense inside the company’s warehouses. After seven preventable deaths, the company must implement a program that eliminates all preventable illnesses, injuries and fatalities. And workers need to be part of that program for it to work.”
“Amazon can move products around the globe in a matter of hours. To be a true leader, Jeff Bezos (CEO) must use the same focus and intensity to listen to workers and eliminate the hazards which can injure or kill people at Amazon facilities.”
Further to this, a recent report from Gizmodo claims Amazon is engaging in “aggressive anti-union tactics”. The report claims managers at Amazon are encouraged to express opinions against unions to their workers and “and any of signs of potential organization are supposed to be escalated to human resources and general managers immediately.”
“The path to safe good-paying jobs is a real voice for workers and a seat at the table,” said Goldstein-Gelb.
“Pushing managers to campaign against unions isn’t leading. It’s following an outdated, top-down command structure that doesn’t fit today’s workers or today’s workplaces.”