As Covid-19 has closed shops and caused mass layoffs, Amazon, one of the pandemic’s few success stories, has taken on thousands of agency workers into its warehouses on zero-hours contracts, treating employees “like disposable labour” in areas where it has become one of the only jobs in town.
The Bureau can reveal that agency workers used by Amazon have been left in the lurch with zero-hours contracts and no guarantee of pay for 20 hours’ work a week – both of which are in breach of Amazon’s stated policies. Our investigation found many Amazon warehouse workers struggling to pay bills, with shifts cancelled at the last minute and hundreds of pounds in wages left unpaid.
The online retail giant has thrived as non-essential high street stores have been shuttered. Amazon’s UK sales jumped by half to £19.4bn last year, and the company used a third of all the warehouse space in the country during the summer. Jeff Bezos, who recently announced he would soon be stepping down as CEO, recorded a net worth of more than $190bn.
But by outsourcing recruitment through temporary agencies, Amazon has created a situation where working for the world’s richest man is no guarantee of a livable wage.
Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, said: “The government must not allow companies to outsource their moral responsibility to treat their staff with decency and respect. It should be a bare minimum for firms to pay staff a fair wage and uphold workers’ rights.
“The allegations of workers not being paid for the hours they work or being otherwise under-paid are extremely serious. The government must get to the bottom of these allegations and investigate whether Amazon has been short-changing its staff.”
Amazon took on more than 20,000 seasonal workers in the UK last year, recruiting nearly half that amount in the three months leading up to Christmas. The Bureau recorded the details of nearly 9,000 ads posted for Amazon jobs on Reed.co.uk during that period. Every single ad was posted by two agencies hired by Amazon – Adecco and PMP Recruitment.