Amazon typically stays under-the-radar when it comes to making public statements, but the company certainly felt compelled enough to respond to BBC’s new undercover report that cites Amazon working conditions causing mental illness.
The BBC story, which published today and aired this evening in the U.K., featured reporter Adam Littler, who worked at Amazon’s Swansea warehouse in Wales as a “picker,” finding products and taking instructions from a handset.
Based on his experience, Littler said that the job made him feel like a robot and after walking 11 miles during one 10.5-hour shift, he was “absolutely shattered.” This caused a leading job stress expert to say that Amazon’s working conditions were “all the bad stuff at once.”
“The characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness,” Professor Michael Marmot told BBC.
Amazon provided a response to us just now, refuting the claims and defending its labor practices.
Here’s the statement in full:
We strongly refute the charge that Amazon exploits its employees in any way. The safety of our associates is our number one priority, and we adhere to all regulations and employment law.
We provide competitive wages and stock grants which over the past five years have added an average of 12% to base pay annually. This means that, on average, an Amazon associate with two years’ service will be earning £8.98 per hour for a day shift or £10.78 per hour for a night shift. Additionally, we provide a raft of benefits. Further details can be found at www.amazon.co.uk/fcpractices.
Amazon has retained an independent expert who has visited our buildings and associates. In the independent expert’s opinion, a picking role is similar to jobs in many other industries and does not increase the risk of mental and physical illness.
Amazon is proud to have a highly favourable safety rate compared to companies in the same industry. From April 2012 to October 2013, Amazon’s RIDDOR rate (the “Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations” as defined by the UK Health and Safety Executive) was less than 40% of the average for companies reporting under the same industry code.
We understand that our progress depends on good execution and good judgment from thousands of employees. Together, we’re working hard to make sure that we are better tomorrow than we are today.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Amazon in the middle of labor conditions issues, as the Seattle-based company has taken some heat during the past few years over its treatment of warehouse workers.
The BBC report comes during Amazon’s busiest time of the year as it hires an additional 70,000 seasonal workers this holiday season to help sort, pick and pack goods at its growing network of fulfillment centers — a 40 percent uptick in holiday hiring over last year.