WEB & TECH / DEC. 15, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Is Amazon Anonymous Putting People Out of a Job?

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Although Amazon Anonymous may have the best interests at heart, they may be doing more wrong than right.

Amazon Anonymous started as a petition on Change.org in December 2013, asking people to boycott Amazon over Christmas for not paying its employees the living wage and for its poor working conditions. To date, their 85,000 registered pledgers claim to have saved almost £2.5 million in money not spent from shopping with the online retail giant.

Horror Stories

A few alleged Amazon worker reviews have been published on the Amazon Anonymous website, which, if true, are absolutely terrifying. “I felt like a slave trapped in a big metal cage”, says one reviewer. Another speaks of his nephew’s termination: “No notice. Amazon merely stopped his workers pass”.

Carole Cadwalladr of The Observer got a job at Amazon’s Swansea warehouse for a week, and provided an insider’s look on what goes on behind the closed doors of one of Amazon’s fulfilment centres. She reported that workers spent “10½ hours a day picking items off the shelves”, were sacked for taking “three sick breaks in any three-month period”, and are told they “may walk up to 15 miles a shift” upon applying for the job.

Making Matters Worse?

Amazon’s poor working conditions have been the subject of the public and Media’s criticism for over a year now, who seem to be doing little to resolve the issue. Amazon Anonymous has therefore taken matters into their own hands in an effort to help raise public awareness and campaign against Amazon’s mistreatment of its workforce.

But, by doing so, are they really helping, or will they only get them all sacked?

Amazon claims to have created 15,000 seasonal positions over Christmas last year, offering them an income for the holidays to help with Christmas shopping, paying utility bills, and feeding their families. Asking people to boycott Amazon entirely, even for just 25 days in December as Amazon Anonymous suggests, may lead to Amazon cutting down on its 6,000 permanent employees. If there aren’t any people buying, there’s no need for staff. That’s 21,000 jobs on the line.

Living Wage Not Compulsory

The living wage, currently at £7.85 per hour for people living outside of London (£9.15 for inside London), is calculated annually by The Living Wage Foundation, based on the basic cost of living in the UK.

Large corporations like HSBC, PwC, Transport for London, and J.P. Morgan do pay their employees the living wage, but The Living Wage Foundation make it clear on their website that employers can choose to do so “on a voluntary basis”. There is no law that requires them to pay the living wage.

The current National Minimum Wage rate, which on the other hand is legally enforced, is set at £6.50 per hour for persons who are 21 years old and over, whereas Amazon pays its employees a more favourable salary at £6.70 per hour for temporary employees, and £7.39 per hour for permanent employees as a starting salary – they can earn up to £8.90 per hour after 2 years.

The Underlying Problem

While Amazon Anonymous have their heart in the right place and the living wage would be ideal for any UK employee, the problem lies not in Amazon’s refusal to pay its employees the living wage, but rather its workforce mistreatment. It is this issue that needs to be addressed – distributing better working conditions and providing fairer working hours may lead to the possibility of future job openings at Amazon, and as a result further decrease the UK employment rate, even if just a little.

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