Amazon is under fire after an undercover reporter learned that the company’s warehouse workers in the United Kingdom are so afraid of taking bathroom breaks that they “peed in bottles.”
James Bloodworth, an author who was working on a book about low wages in the British country, said that while working undercover for Amazon, warehouse’s fulfillment workers in Staffordshire had to keep a “toilet bottle” at hand because going to the restroom might take them too long and put them at risk of being punished.
"For those of us who worked on the top floor, the closest toilets were down four flights of stairs," Bloodworth said. "People just peed in bottles because they lived in fear of being disciplined over 'idle time' and losing their jobs just because they needed the loo."
The pressure on these workers is great, as Amazon has strict targets to meet. This forces workers picking and packaging items to be under constant stress. Employees who miss their targets are reportedly issued warnings and lose points, as well as those who take longer breaks.
In a survey from the worker campaign platform Organise, nearly three-quarters of the 241 Amazon warehouse employees interviewed said they feared using the restroom. They all claimed that time constraints were behind that fear.
One of the respondents explained that they are required to pack two products per minute.
“You do not have time to drink water because you go to the toilet after every evening [it] sends messages to the scanner with the target and tells you to hurry."
Unfortunately, the same anonymous employee said, the “target grows every year.” As a result, employees are pressed even further to work faster.
“I do not have two more legs yet to make the 100% to pick, where you actually need to run and go to the toilet just during the break. Packing 120 products per hour is terribly heavy.”
The survey also found that workers had become considerably more anxious after they started working for the retail giant while another employee said that while pregnant, she missed the target because she was sick and was still given a warning. Another told Organise that showing up sick for work still won’t make them respect you.
“I turned up for my shift even though I felt like s***, managed 2 hours then I just could not do anymore. Told my supervisor and was signed off sick, I had a gastric bug (sickness and [diarrhea], very bad) saw my doc. Got a sick note with an explanation, but still got a strike."
Amazon refuted the survey’s findings, saying that their warehouses are safe environments and that they were not able to confirm that those who responded to the survey actually worked for the company.
"Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one.”
"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,” the company added. “Amazon also offers public tours of its fulfillment centres so customers can see first-hand what happens after they click 'buy' on Amazon."
Despite the company’s claims, it’s hard to imagine that both the author who went undercover and the survey respondents would be willing to lie so blatantly in order to give Amazon a bad name, especially after the company was already accused of putting workers through similar harsh working conditions. As such, we hope that the situation for Amazon employees continues to be looked at in depth until the entire truth comes to light.
After all, there’s no excuse to put someone under such stress, especially nowadays when companies like Amazon are under the public eye and will be harshly criticized, if they do not provide workers with a safe working environment.