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Amazon: Toil and Trouble

October 8th, 2018 | by Sean Simpson
Amazon: Toil and Trouble
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This week, Amazon gave us a clue as to the real source of its shareholders’ dividends. Following criticism over its notoriously bad working conditions, for example, when the union GMB announced that 90% of its members working for Amazon reported they were working in “constant pain”, the corporation’s PR army leaped into action and painted a convincing picture of a kinder, gentler Amazon, one which would turn a new corner by raising its minimum wage generously by around 36% in the US and 18-28% in the UK.

With wage raises high above the rate of inflation Amazon reaped the reward of good publicity. It’s too good to be true. What came out next shouldn’t shock you: Amazon have quietly told its workers that they will no longer be entitled to incentive pay bonuses or shared ownership of company stock, in all likelihood leading to a real terms pay cut. In doing so, Amazon has yet again sent a clear message to its workers; ‘we don’t care about you’.

Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, is the richest person in modern history… he probably does not, in fact, work thirty four million times harder than his average employee

Amazon is no stranger to Machiavellian public relations. It has been repeatedly revealed that workers at Amazon are coerced into using language that paints the corporation in a positive light; warehouses become ‘fulfillment centres’, managers become ‘associates’. Some workers have described working for Amazon as “like working in a prison”, which might any day be changed by management to a more fitting description, like ‘a secure and efficiently managed work environment’. 

In much the same vein, to Amazon upper-management a pay cut is now a pay rise.  Every time the public or its own workforce pleads for Amazon to act with any decency, the higher-ups remind us that the name of the game is profit, and the workers are mere instruments labelled ‘associates’. 

In doing so, Amazon has yet again sent a clear message to its workers; ‘we don’t care about you’.

Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, is the richest person in modern history. It should raise eyebrows over where his staggering personal net worth of $161.7 Billion USD really comes from, given that it is equal to the GDP of a small country. While most of those who jump to his defence may claim he earned such a fortune through his own hard work, let’s be realistic here. He probably does not work thirty four million times harder than his average employee, who currently earns around $47,000 in the US. The fact that 600 hundred ambulance calls have been made to Amazon warehouses in the UK over the past three years or the reports of Amazon workers urinating in bottles due to insufficient toilet breaks should not leave much to the imagination.

No doubt, Amazon will respond to the impending fresh criticism with its usual bright eyes and bushy tail before slipping its mask back off and telling its workers to shut up and get on with it. After all, if they don’t like it, they know where the door is, right?  

 

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