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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 August 22 - 28  > Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 4)
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2018 August 22 - 28 [LABOR]

Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 4)

August 1, 2018

A former Amazon Odawara fulfilment center worker said that workers at Amazon's FCs basically work under a three-layered pyramid structure.

In the top layer are Amazon Japan's fulltime employees. They barely visit Amazon warehouses. In the middle are contractors taking command of shipments. Since the Odawara FC was established in 2013, leading express company Nippon Express Co., Ltd. had been the contractor, and then, in 2017, Fukuoka-based temporary manpower company World Intec Co., Ltd. replaced Nippon Express. In the bottom layer are pickers, stowers, and packers who are normally employed by the contractor as non-regular workers or by many staffing agencies as temporary workers. Thus, Amazon heavily and permanently entrusts a large part of its work to temporary dispatched workers.

Complaints among non-regular workers

According to Okawa Akira, an ex-worker of the Odawara FC, most non-regular workers at the Odawara FC complain mainly about harsh working conditions, inadequate rest periods, and low wages.

Initially, anyone who worked from 8a.m. to 5p.m. was able to have a break of 30 minutes in the morning and another 30 minutes in the afternoon in addition to a 1-hour lunchbreak. However, after a while, the 30-minute break was shortened to 15 minutes and the lunchtime break to 45 minutes.

Okawa said, "The warehouse is so big that we need ten minutes to get to the cafeteria and we also have to wait in a long line for elevators, food, and use of the toilet. So, 45 minutes is not enough and nobody can actually rest. I as well as many other workers begged Amazon Japan to do something about this situation, but the break time never returned to the previous length."

Hourly wages stay around Odawara City's minimum wage standard and do not go up no matter how much experience the workers may have. Only during busy seasons, Amazon set wages at 2,000 yen for peak season workers in order to secure the necessary number of manpower.

Okawa said, "We were very angry because we, experienced workers, had to work at 950 yen per hour while people who were new to their job were paid 2,000 yen. We just wanted fair wages according to the work we do."

‘It was a hell on earth’

Non-regular workers in Amazon are under constant pressure to increase productivity. The staffing level is too low and the workload is too heavy. As an obvious consequence, workers have to handle goods hurriedly and roughly.

The aforementioned ex-worker, Okawa said, “Gradually, workers become less careful in handling parcels and forget the fact that what they are holding is merchandise. We inevitably began to feel that we are handling something unimportant like pebbles by the roadside and toss parcels in cardboard boxes onto conveyor belts. This is a result of Amazon’s obsession with productivity which leads to the inhumane treatment of workers and the reduction of recesses. So, I don’t buy goods from Amazon.”

Okawa said that he had lost consciousness two times on his days off. He entered a university hospital to receive testing but the cause of his symptoms was not determined. Thinking that it would be impossible for him to work at Amazon in his 50s and 60s, Okawa changed jobs. Asked what it was like to work at the company, he simply said, “It was a hell on earth.”

At the online forum 2Channel (currently 5Channel), workers at the Odawara FC complain bitterly about the working conditions.

“Fatigue builds up and you will have to routinely go to see a doctor. Still, we receive low wages and no commuting allowance.”

“Neighbors here call this facility ‘Auschwitz’. That is a good name for it.”

“I wonder why I exhaust myself by doing simple and repetitive tasks all day long, day after day, just to help this highly exploitative company make more in profits. While working as a picker, I curse myself for ending up taking such a position.”

“At the end of the day, we are tired out but have to undergo baggage inspections before leaving the workplace just like a suspected shoplifter. Then the worst part comes. We see the picture of the Amazon CEO smiling. I heard his property is worth seven trillion yen (as of 2016). A part of his seven trillion yen is the product of my sweat and tears.”

Past related articles:
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 3) [July 31, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 2) [July 30, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 1) [July 29, 2018]

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