AI News, Amazon employees are now being replaced by ROBOTS

Amazon employees are now being replaced by ROBOTS

Amazon's warehouses will be staffed by less humans and more robots over the busy Christmas period, a leading analyst has claimed.  The retail giant recruits thousands of additional employees every year to help meet the increased demand of the festive period.  Amazon is only recruiting an additional 100,000 people for this year, down 20,000 from the two previous Christmases.  Citi analyst Mark May told CNBC that this is likely a early sign of the increased automation at Amazon as it lessens its reliance on human employees.

'Our teams work alongside more than 100,000 robots at over 26 fulfilment centres worldwide and we are excited to continue increasing the technology we use at our sites while growing our global workforce.' Last month Amazon announced it would be raising the minimum wage for workers in the US to $15 per hour.  This follows a tumultuous period of time for the company which faced various complaints and widespread criticism of working conditions in its fulfilment centres.

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Working in an Amazon warehouse is like a prison, says an author who worked undercover at a fulfillment center and found that staff members were peeing in bottles because they didn't have enough time to go to the toilet.

To research how people cope, he took low-paying jobs at an Amazon warehouse, in social care, at a call center, at a building site, and as an Uber driver.

Bloodworth spent just under a month in 2016 working as a 'picker' at an Amazon fulfillment center in Rugeley, in central England, which involved retrieving items that people had ordered for delivery.

Bloodworth said he was employed through Transline, an agency Amazon cut ties with last year after a 2015 investigation by The Guardian found it had sent about 1,500 people to work in poor conditions at the warehouse of Sports Direct, a major British retailer.

Bloodworth said Amazon staff members had to meet high productivity targets that were feasible only if they ran around the warehouse — something Amazon didn't allow for health and safety reasons.

Bloodworth also outlined Amazon's penalty points system — he said that racking up six points for issues like unexplained absences could lead to disciplinary proceedings and dismissal.

Bloodworth said he received a point after telling his manager he needed a sick day, despite giving more than the required one hour's notice and being able to provide a note.

'We have a focus on ensuring we provide a great environment for all our employees and last month Amazon was named by LinkedIn as the 7th most sought-after place to work in the UK and ranked first place in the US.

'Amazon has a range of initiatives to support our people if they become ill at home or at work and we recently extended these to include improved on-site support.

'As with nearly all companies, we expect a certain level of performance from our associates and we continue to set productivity targets objectively, based on previous performance levels achieved by our workforce.

Associate performance is measured and evaluated over a long period of time as we know that a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour.

'The pay rate for permanent Amazon's fulfillment centre employees in the UK increases over their first two years of employment, after which time all employees earn £8.35 an hour and above.

All permanent Amazon fulfillment centre employees are given stock grants, which over the last five years were on average equal to £1,000 or more per year per person.

Employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package, including private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, subsidised meals and an employee discount, which combined are worth more than £700 annually, as well as a company pension plan.

'Amazon also offers employees an innovative programme called Career Choice that provides funding for adult education, offering to pre-pay 95% of tuition and associated fees for nationally recognised courses, up to £8,000 over four years.'

Peeing in trash cans, constant surveillance, and asthma attacks on the job: Amazon workers tell us their warehouse horror stories

A former Amazon warehouse worker described being stopped in his tracks by an 'awful smell' emanating from the trash cans.

The stench, he said, was 'unmistakable' and led him to one conclusion: His coworkers were so worried about taking too long on a bathroom break that they had resorted to urinating in the bin.

His story echoes an investigation by the journalist James Bloodworth, who went undercover as a worker in an Amazon warehouse in the UK in 2016 for a book on low-wage jobs.

Bloodworth told Business Insider he once found a bottle of urine on a shelf, saying people would do so because they feared that a bathroom break would take too long and would cause them to miss their strict targets.

Since publishing Bloodworth's story last month, more than 30 people who said they worked for Amazon in the US, UK, and Germany contacted Business Insider with stories of working in an Amazon warehouse.

The warehouse employees' stories paint a picture of constant surveillance and a crippling fear of missing targets.

Many people view Amazon as a near-magical entity that delivers online shopping with amazing speed, sometimes within the hour.

The company has 16 in the UK alone, where thousands of employees pick products off shelves, pack them into the right boxes, and get them out to customers.

Amazon 'pickers' move around the warehouse on a predetermined route to collect items for delivery, scanning each one with a handheld scanner, which times the length between scans, employees said.

They say pickers must hit a certain number of scans per hour, and if they miss their targets, a manager will show up to see what they're doing.

Employees say that things like spending time talking to coworkers, going to get a drink, or even taking too long to find a package are billed as 'time off task,' too much of which leads to penalty points for an employee.

combined with security cameras dotting Amazon's warehouses, its airport-style security checks, and short breaks —

In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman said: 'Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one.

But while there were plenty of security cameras around the warehouse, there were no staff members watching employees' possessions, she said.

This employee was tasked with restocking, putting 15 to 20 carts' worth of new products onto Amazon's shelves.

'You would rush to the metal detector, stand in line, wait, grab a smoke or something to eat —

An Amazon spokeswoman said that most employees didn't have to wait in line for long periods and that there were break rooms available inside the warehouse so people wouldn't have to go through security.

'If a break involves leaving the building, we carefully monitor the length of time it takes people to go through the screening process and ensure it does not take longer than between 30 to 60 seconds on average.

We have also extended and improved our canteen facilities to ensure people are able to collect and pay for their food locally.'

'Security measures such as cameras and security gates are normal procedure in any large logistics centre that houses highly valuable product inventory,' the spokeswoman said.

About 30 current and former warehouse staff members who contacted Business Insider echoed the German employee's account.

'Water consumption is a concern because leaving [your task] to go to the toilet might take 10 to 15 minutes,' one said.

'But essentially, your two 15-minute breaks in a standard 10-hour shift are actually two 10-minute breaks because the time to get to a break room or a toilet eats up at least five minutes.'

'Amazon ensures all of its associates have easy access to toilet facilities which are just a short walk from where they are working,' a spokeswoman said.

The staff member, who worked for Amazon in the UK last year and provided his Amazon badge to Business Insider, described struggling with the physical work because he has asthma.

He said that after having an asthma attack during a night shift that put him in the hospital, he was moved to packing —

'After explaining that I was moved due to my asthma, they told me that due to the fact I was trained on both, I didn't really have a choice of what I got to do —

Amazon sometimes moves employees who are not hitting targets to different roles in an attempt to improve their performance.

Amazon has repeatedly told Business Insider that it no longer uses a points system to track employees' attendance.

'Like most companies, Amazon has a fair and predictable system to record staff attendance and take into account individual circumstances.

'Amazon has a range of initiatives to support our people if they become ill at home or at work and we recently extended these to include improved on-site support.

In the US, the points system was removed for permanent full-time staff members, but several employees told Business Insider it still applied to other workers.

'Since I currently work for Amazon in the US, I can tell you that is simply not true: They have always and continue to use that points-based system,' one US worker said.

Others expressed frustration that daily warehouse pressures had helped Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos become the richest man in the world.

'The metrics are brutally aggressive, and most of my colleagues are in a state of constant anxiety that we could be fired at any moment for not meeting metrics,' one current US employee said.

Jeff Bezos has become the richest man in the world off the backs of people so desperate for work that we tolerate the abuse.'

The employee praised her colleagues in Germany who in a union-organized demonstration last week protested Amazon's record of paying little tax and its treatment of workers.

A large portion work in fulfillment centers, and the company often hires temporary employees during busy periods like holidays.

John Ritland, who has worked as a picker and packer for the past six years at Amazon's warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee, described the job as 'labor-intensive' but said the monitoring and targets didn't bother him.

'It only bothers me when they create a barrier to path,' or the algorithmically determined route Amazon gives a worker to get move around the warehouse.

One of the reasons we've been able to attract so many people to join us is that our number one priority is to ensure a positive and safe working environment.

'We use our connections program to ask associates a question every day about how we can make things even better, we develop new processes and technology to make the roles in our facilities more ergonomic and comfortable for our associates, and we investigate any allegation we are made aware of and fix things that are wrong.'

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