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AMAZON was accused of putting profit before safety today after it demanded that warehouse staff work compulsory overtime to deal with soaring sales caused by the coronavirus.
The retail giant has ordered workers in at least four different sites to work overtime, according to the GMB union.
Amazon employs 27,000 people in 17 warehouses in Britain. Owner Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $110.5 billion (£91.66 billion). Warehouse staff in Britain earn an average of about £8.75 per hour.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has advised people to work from home where possible as part of new measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.
But one worker at Amazon’s Dunfermline warehouse in Scotland, who asked not to be named, said that staff in the inbound goods department are having extra hours imposed and believed that this would continue for at least two weeks.
They said that workers are having to bear the pressure of a rise in demand as the public increasingly self-isolates to prevent the virus’s spread.
The worker said that such actions by the company are “very rare” outside of Christmas or Prime Week, when the company offers discounts on goods.
Other departments in the Dunfermline warehouse are not telling workers to do more hours but are offering staff up to 60 hours of voluntary overtime, the worker said.
GMB national officer Mick Rix said that the reports of forced overtime were “extremely concerning” and accused Amazon of “imposing its demands on workers without any regard for their safety.”
He particularly expressed concern that overworked staff could be made more susceptible to the virus.
Under working-time regulations, overtime is limited to a maximum of 48 hours per week, averaged over a 17-week period. But workers can opt out of the maximum weekly limit and some are required to do so as a condition of employment.
Amazon confirmed that it had ramped up shifts across Britain and said that it would temporarily increase hourly wages by £2.
Bleach, handwash, nappies, large boxes of rice and powdered milk are some of the items particularly being sought on the website.
From April 5, Amazon will be temporarily suspending the shipment of all items from independent merchants that are not medical supplies or “high-demand” products.
Products already en route to its warehouse will be accepted and shipped out, but no new products will be accepted for the next three weeks.
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