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GMB Amazon probe finds ‘terrible conditions’ for warehouse staff

An investigation by trade union GMB has found “terrible conditions” and poor treatment of workers in Amazon warehouses.

A series of Freedom of Information Requests submitted to ambulance services across the UK show that ambulances have been called out 600 times to 14 Amazon warehouses in the last three financial years. In more than half of those cases patients were taken to hospital.

GMB said in a statement that during the past three years at Amazon’s Rugeley site in Staffordshire, ambulances were called 115 times, including three for women due to pregnancy/maternity and three for major trauma. Other examples include electrocution, unconsciousness, the building being on fire and chest pains.

A survey of GMB members working at Amazon warehouses found 87% are in constant or occasional pain due to their workload.

One woman in late pregnancy complained she was forced to work standing up for her entire shift, while a recent meeting of MP’s into the so-called ‘gig economy’ was recently told by an Amazon worker about a woman who had a miscarriage as a result of the continuous pressure to work and hit targets.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “When I found I was pregnant, I asked my manager to be transferred to a different department. I was told I could not be transferred and must continue picking, which involves bending, stretching and moving a heavy cart, and walking miles.

“After a while I told them I could not walk so many miles and I could not pick from low locations. I had a meeting with a safety manager and was also told: ‘It’s not what you want, it is what we decide’. My manager told me that most women are working on picking until their maternity leave. I know this is true, because I saw ladies with huge bumps picking.”

Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said: “We really hoped Amazon had learnt its lesson from the report we published in 2014. Sadly that does not appear to be the case. Hundreds of ambulance call outs, pregnant women telling us they are forced to stand for 10 hours a day, pick, stow, stretch and bend, pull heavy carts and walk miles – even miscarriages and pregnancy issues at work.”

He added: “I’ve never seen figures like this – Amazon Rugeley must be one of the most dangerous places to work in Britain. Amazon should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. Companies like Amazon should be treating staff with respect, not treating them like robots.”

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