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Why Amazon Is Shedding Staff

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

GMB Say Aim Of Amazon “Offer” Is To Get Rid Of Staff Being Damaged By Badly Designed And Dangerous Ergonomic Work Regimes

Impossible target regimes cause long term stress and musculoskeletal damage in Amazon warehouses so aim is to shed the evidence of damage before its full extent is clear says GMB.

GMB, the union for staff at Amazon, say the real aim of the recently announced incentives for staff to leave is to rid themselves of workers being damaged by the badly designed and dangerous ergonomic work regimes in the warehouses before the full extent of the damage becomes clear to these workers.

The company recently sought volunteers to apply to leave the company at a number of locations including Rugeley, Swansea and Milton Keynes. In the absence of anything in writing it appeared that Amazon was bypassing the law on redundancies to get rid of staff. See notes to editors for copy of GMB press release dated 4th March.

Amazon has operations in Croydon, Doncaster, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Gourock, Hemel Hemstead, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Rugeley, Swansea, Slough, Holborn in London, Dublin and Cork. Amazon told MPs in May 2014 that it had 7,000 employees in UK of which 5,800 are permanent staff in the UK distribution depots. It said that it had up to 15,000 seasonal staff in run up to Christmas 2013.

In response to this GMB release Amazon said "We have added well over 2,000 new permanent employees in the UK over the past two years, and we are still hiring.

Customers are best served by an engaged, positive workforce and that is our focus. We created the offer to provide employees who are ready for a new career with an opportunity to smooth their transition, whilst rewarding their service to customers.

The offer is not a redundancy programme. We are happy to say very few of our employees chose to voluntarily resign under the programme, choosing instead to stay and continue to do great work for customers."

Elly Baker, GMB lead officer for Amazon, said “GMB has examined the matter further In the light of this statement from the company.

Amazon’s scheme to shed jobs is in fact more sinister than the badly executed redundancy programme we at first assumed. It is now clear that the aim of “offer” scheme is to rid themselves of staff who are being damaged under their dangerous work regimes before the full extent of the injuries is clear.

The damage caused by badly designed ergonomic regimes leads to longer serving staff slowing down and it is these that are being incentivised out the door under “the offer”.

Our members report that the “offer” is targeted at those with longer years of service, and our information shows that the cumulative impact of working at Amazon is devastating on health. In some cases Amazon are misleading staff about the amounts they will receive in order to lose longer serving staff.

Impossible target regimes cause long term stress and musculoskeletal damage so it is no wonder Amazon are trying to rid themselves of the evidence of the reality of working at Amazon.  

GMB is calling on Amazon to abandon their destructive practices and work with the union and workers to establish a sustainable model, as the union has done elsewhere in the distribution sector. Amazon’s business model is based on chewing up workers and spitting them out – it is not something this union will stand for.”

Daniel Shears GMB National Health and Safety officer, said “Amazon presents little to no information on health and safety risks to workers. Amazon also claims that the pick rates they set are safely achievable without detriment to health. Anyone who has seen any of the inside media coverage last year will find this hard to believe.

Amazon does not allow GMB or our members any involvement in the management of health and safety. There is no rigorous risk assessment and hazard control in place, especially regarding musculoskeletal injury from repetitive manual handling, and stress from the high workload. There has been no information provided on whether the cumulative impact of the work has been assessed as safe for long-term health, and appears to be no recognition of the physical or mental stress caused by the demanding pick rates that Amazon has set. 

Amazon’s model of high casualization of the workforce enables them to cover up the realities of the impact on health of the work. Amazon accident rates do not include agency workers injured by the target regimes (stress) and overexertion (back and joint pain) who are not fit enough to come to work. These are never counted in Amazon’s official statistics.”

End

Contact: Elly Baker  07918 768 773 or Martin Smith 07974 251 722 or Richard Owen 07974 179285  or Jeff Beck 07980 753 112 in Wales.

Notes to editors

Copy of GMB press release dated 4th March 2015

GMB CALL ON AMAZON TO FOLLOW LEGAL REQUIREMENTS ON REDUNDANCY SITUATIONS AT UK LOCATIONS

Amazon should submit a HR1 notice to the Secretary of State and then undertake a proper consultation exercise before selecting any staff to go says GMB

GMB, the union for staff at Amazon, is calling on the company to adhere to the legal requirements regarding collective consultation on dealing with redundancies as it seeks volunteers to apply to leave the company at a number of locations including Swansea and Milton Keynes.

A redundancy situation applies where an employer’s need for staff has diminished or ceased. The law states that when proposing to make redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment within 90 days, an employer must:

consult with any recognised trade union or, if none, with other elected employee representatives

start consultation in good time – at least 30 or 45 days before the first dismissal takes effect depending on the number of proposed redundancies. No dismissals can take effect until consultation is complete and the minimum period of 30 or 45 days has elapsed

consult on ways of avoiding dismissals, reducing the numbers to be made redundant and mitigating the effect of the dismissals

disclose in writing to the appropriate representatives certain information concerning the proposed dismissals

notify the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills at least 30 or 45 days in advance of the first dismissal taking effect, depending on the number of proposed redundancies.

Amazon has operations in Croydon, Doncaster, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Gourock, Hemel Hemstead, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Rugeley, Swansea, Slough, Holborn in London, Dublin and Cork. Amazon told MPs in May 2014 that it had 7,000 employees in UK of which 5,800 are permanent staff in the UK distribution depots. It said that it had up to 15,000 seasonal staff in run up to Christmas 2013.

Elly Baker, GMB lead officer for Amazon, said “Amazon is bypassing the law when it comes to redundancies and getting rid of staff.

At both Swansea and Milton Keynes members of staff have been verbally asked to consider voluntarily applying to leave the company for a lump sum of up to £3,500 which is less than the statutory amount due in many cases.

The company have been asked and refused to put this offer in writing. This is in spite of fact that members of staff who applied and were accepted to go found that the amount they were paid was less than the sums promised.

This is not how a redundancy situation should be dealt with in the UK. Amazon should submit a HR1 notice to the Secretary of State and then undertake a proper consultation exercise before selecting any staff to go. Amazon is dealing with this like AA did when they targeted staff to go. As happened at AA GMB will defend our members at Amazon.”

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