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Prime Day 2019: Amazon accused of “dangerous” working conditions as union leads UK protests

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Amazon’s UK employees have launched protests to coincide with Prime Day 2019 over alleged poor work conditions at its fulfilment centres.

Union GMB has organised protests at centres including Rugeley, Swansea, Peterborough, Warrington, Coventry, Doncaster and Milton Keynes.

The protests started today (15 July) and will continue throughout the week, with the last taking place on 22 July.

GMB’s leadership is calling on the ecommerce giant to hold discussions about how to make workplaces safer.

Explaining the reasons behind the protest, the union said Amazon workers faced “dangerous” conditions at work. It said that since 2015 and 2016 over 600 reports had been made from Amazon warehouses to the Health and Safety Executive.

Allegations by members included workers being forced by excessive targets to urinate in bottles, with pregnant women being forced to stand and in some cases suffering miscarriages.

GMB highlighted the Rugeley site in particular as being “one of the most dangerous places to work in Britain”. It said that a freedom of information request had shown that there were 115 ambulance call-outs to this site over a three year period.

Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: “We’re staging protests across Amazon sites up and down the country this Prime Day.

“The conditions our members work under at Amazon sites across the UK are appalling.”

Rix added: “Amazon workers want Jeff Bezos to know they are people – not robots. It’s time for him to show empathy with the very people that have helped to contribute to his vast and increasing personal fortune.”

At the time of publication, GMB had not responded to questions about the number of participants in the protests nor about how many Amazon workers are GMB members.

Protests are also taking place in cities in the US. Amazon workers struck over Easter in Germany. In that case the goal was to achieve a collective bargaining agreement.

UPDATE: In a statement emailed to eDelivery.net, Amazon responded to the claims: “Today, our well-paid, dedicated and highly-respected teams, are doing what they do every day – delivering for their customers in an environment that’s fun, engaging and set-up to help them succeed.

“With industry-leading pay, comprehensive benefits, outstanding career opportunities and a safe, modern work environment, Amazon is the employer of choice for thousands of people across the UK.”

The ecommerce giant said associates are allowed to use toilets whenever they choose and said that absolute ambulance numbers were not an accurate proxy for workplace safety because it did not take into consideration factors such as hours worked, population size and whether requests were work-related or not.

On the miscarriage point, Amazon said: “This allegation has been made a number of times – we have no record of this incident and we have never been provided with any information.”

This article has been updated to include Amazon’s response.