|Thu Sept 22 2011 14:01:35|
Sellers Worried about Conditions in Amazon Warehouses
By: Ina Steiner
Online sellers are concerned about conditions in Amazon warehouses after the Morning Call published a report on Saturday. The newspaper interviewed 20 current and former warehouse workers who called working conditions at a Pennsylvania warehouse dangerous.
"An emergency room doctor in June called federal regulators to report an "unsafe environment" after he treated several Amazon warehouse workers for heat-related problems," the newspaper wrote. "The doctor's report was echoed by warehouse workers who also complained to regulators, including a security guard who reported seeing pregnant employees suffering in the heat."
Sellers who use Amazon's fulfillment service were particularly concerned over the treatment of workers as well as the possible effects on their inventory stored there.
"Since I'm 100% FBA, I'm feel a little like Kathy Lee Gifford facilitating a sweat-shop for my gain," wrote one seller on the Amazon discussion board.
Another seller wrote, "My husband worked at this facility over the holidays and he feels that the constant push to get more and more work done in less and less time spells the kiss of the death for used books. When people are pressured like this they become careless."
And what about Amazon's FBA marketing messages about "temperature controlled warehouse," a seller wondered. On this Amazon page it states, "Your inventory is securely stored and managed in Amazon's climate-controlled fulfillment facilities and your customer orders are processed confidentially."
However, on the New York Times blog, one seller pleaded for shoppers who were upset with the workers' treatment not to boycott the company:
"Amazon's warehouse is only one component of it's commerce. There are thousands of merchants that ship from their own brick and mortar business along with small merchants that ship from home. A boycott would hurt those of us trying to make ends meet through through selling on Amazon. Please don't boycott!"
Another Times reader wrote, "the most unsettling news here is about the capricious and apparently random termination that takes place among the temporary staff somewhat regularly."
We asked Amazon for a reaction to the story. A spokesperson sent the following statement via email:
"At Amazon, the safety and well-being of our employees is our number one priority. We have several procedures in place to ensure the safety of our associates during the summer heat, including increased breaks, shortened shifts, constant reminders and help about hydration, and extra ice machines. Our fulfillment team was dealing with record hot temperatures this past summer. We have air conditioning in some FC's - Phoenix, AZ for example - but we haven't historically had air conditioning in our east coast fulfillment centers. We're in the process of adding air conditioning to additional FC's so that we're prepared in case what we saw this past summer becomes the new normal."
Amazon's CEO is not unfamiliar with warehouse work - Jeff Bezos spent a week working at Amazon's Kentucky fulfillment centers in 2009. And it's not the first time Amazon.com's been accused of poor working conditions. The British newspaper site Times Online reported on grueling working conditions at the Amazon warehouse in the UK in 2008.
You can read the full newspaper article here, and let us know if what you think.
Update 9/23/11: Amazon published a statement on its website on Thursday to say it had installed industrial air conditioning units in four fulfillment centers, including the Breinigsville facility, that were operational by late July and early August. Not sure why it didn't include that information in its response to our inquiry this week. News comes via TechFlash.