The holiday season is the most important time of the year for ecommerce giant Amazon. But it’s also the most stressful time of the year for Amazon’s factory floor workers, who have to endure enormous pressure and harsh working conditions to keep the company running smoothly.
Amazon has enjoyed a meteoric rise to success over the past 10 years. It’s now one of the most valuable companies on Earth and undoubtedly the global leader in ecommerce.
To put its ecommerce dominance in perspective, Amazon accounted for 49% of the entire US ecommerce market in 2018.
By comparison, the next three largest companies in the ecommerce market, eBay, Apple and Walmart, accounted for 6.6%, 3.9% and 3.7% respectively.
The lead up to Christmas is a vital period for all companies involved in retail, and Amazon is no exception. During peak season, which runs from Black Friday to just before Christmas, shipments out of Amazon warehouses often increase by 50% or more.
Amazon’s market share of ecommerce spending tends to jump in the second half of the year due to Christmas and Black Friday shoppers.
But this increase in sales results in a massive increase in pressure on workers in Amazon’s warehouses.
Complaints about working conditions
Amazon has faced widespread criticism about dire working conditions it its warehouses for a number of years now.
Scores of current and former Amazon warehouse workers have come forward with tales of harsh working conditions and unrelenting workloads.
A Business Insider report into working conditions in Amazon warehouses over the 2018 festive season included numerous quotes from workers who have experienced the gruelling working conditions first-hand.
60-hour work weeks are the norm during peak season. This works out as six 10-hour shifts or five 12-hour shifts per week.
Working this many hours in an office is one thing, but the job of an Amazon warehouse associate requires constant movement and physical activity.
“It’s like doing 11 1/2 hours of cardio five days a week … You’re going up and down stairs, squatting down, getting on your knees, getting back up,” one amazon warehouse worker told Business Insider.
What is Amazon doing to ease pressure on its warehouse associates?
Last November Amazon increased the hourly pay rate for its US warehouse workers to $15 as a result of political pressure and complaints of low pay. However, this subsequently meant that many workers’ bonuses were cut, leaving some worse off than before.
Workers are offered incentives in the form of ‘swag bucks’, also known as ‘swaggis/swaggies’ in Germany/the UK. These tokens are awarded for hard work, and can be exchanged for scratchcards or items in the cafeteria. But, as far as working conditions go, swag bucks don’t appear to do much to alleviate the pressure.
Abundary has reached out to Amazon for comment on its efforts to reduce pressure and stress on workers during peak season. Unfortunately, Amazon hasn’t yet been able to respond to our request, but we will update the article as soon as we receive any information.