Journalist James Bloodworth spent a month working undercover as a “picker” in an Amazon warehouse in the UK where he says workers called ambulances more than 115 times in three years.
Bloodworth, who has written about his experiences in a new book “Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain,” told Democracy Now that Amazon workers urinate in bottles because they are discouraged from bathroom breaks:
If you took a day off sick, you were given a disciplinary for that. And if you received six of these disciplinaries, you would effectively lose your job. And this was taking a day off sick even if you had a letter from the doctor, even if you phoned in beforehand to say that you were going to be sick. So, if you took six days off sick, you would effectively lose your job. And this was the biggest employer in this town.
Other things, I mean, the people were afraid—people were receiving disciplinaries for taking toilet breaks. The productivity targets were so high that workers were afraid to go to the bathroom. I mean, a survey came out at the Amazon warehouse I worked in, recently, which found that 74 percent of workers there, order pickers, were afraid to use the bathrooms because of the productivity targets…
So, one day, or one afternoon, walking around the top floor of this huge warehouse, and, yeah, I found an empty Coca-Cola bottle with urine in it on the shelf. You know, yellow liquid. Smelled it. It’s very clear straightaway what it is.
And you put two and two together, and this has happened because there’s a climate of fear, and you’re afraid if you go to the toilet, which can take five, 10 minutes—you know, huge warehouse, through security—and people are being told—being accused of taking so-called idle time, by Amazon, for doing this. Everything which takes away from productivity at Amazon is seen as you’re doing something wrong.