· News

Amazon dismisses union’s health and safety claims

Ambulance call-outs to Amazon warehouses have surged by 46% in the run-up to Black Friday, as holiday shopping increases the pressure on staff.

The GMB union, which uncovered the statistic through a Freedom of Information request, also revealed that ambulance callouts to Amazon warehouses in the past five years have been most frequent in November, as demand booms before Christmas.

An Amazon spokesperson said: "Once again, our critics are using incomplete information that's without context and designed to intentionally mislead."

More on Amazon and Health & Safety:

Amazon: new legal challenge could cost firm £140 million

Warehouse workers in need of better rights

Five ways HR can ensure health and safety in the workplace

Defending the company's record, the spokesperson said that Amazon has a statistically lower injury rate than other transportation and warehousing businesses.

"The vast majority of ambulance call-outs to our buildings are related to pre-existing conditions, not work-related incidents, and as a responsible employer, we will always call an ambulance if someone requires medical attention."

They concluded: "Rather than arguing with self-interested critics who aren't interested in facts or progress, we're going to keep listening to our 55,000 employees, taking their feedback, and working hard to keep investing and improving for the long run."

Mick Rix, however, national officer at GMB, said those same Amazon workers were being pushed beyond the limits of human endurance.

He told HR magazine: “The UK Health and Safety Executive needs to step up to the plate and start taking the complaints regarding Amazon’s poor workplace safety culture seriously.

“Regulators should not be scared of Amazon’s enormous, growing, unchecked abuse of power.”

Health and safety inspections in the UK, however, have plummeted by 90% in the last decade, as regulators have had funding slashed.

Rix added that while Amazon’s reputation is continually damaged by its warehouse safety issues, it appears not to care.

“The UK is one of the few places in the world where Amazon spends millions on advertising, trying to rebut the growing evidence of poor safety and treatment of its workforce," he said.

Pressure on distribution and warehouse workers grows massively in the run-up to Christmas – and this year, demand has soared higher. 

According to statistics from job search site Indeed Flex, shifts for temporary staff in the sector are up 42% compared with last year.

Delivery driver postings are even higher, up 226% year-on-year for the week leading up to Black Friday.

Novo Constare, COO and co-founder of Indeed Flex, told HR magazine that demand has seen wages soar, as pressure mounts for companies to fulfil orders.

“With a record number of job vacancies across the UK, thousands of firms are facing a real struggle to attract all the people they need.

“We’ve seen average wages rise steadily in many sectors and across most regions. For example in Greater Manchester, the average hourly rate for temporary warehouse workers has surged 40% in just 12 months – and it’s still not enough.”

Non-financial perks, and a greater emphasis on work-life balance, he added, have become a recruiting gold standard.

“These incentives can be a highly effective way of attracting applicants, especially as many workers are now placing extra weight on the importance of work/life balance as a result of the pandemic.”