Channel 4 News has been running a story about Amazon’s working practices based on an investigation at their Rugeley warehouse. It’s shocking stuff. An old mining town, Rugeley has long had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country so the announcement that Amazon were to locate a huge distribution centre there was met with delight but things are now so dire that new employees are being bussed in from up to twenty miles away. Most ‘associates’ don’t make it beyond the twelve weeks at which they qualify for permanent employee status with its attendant benefits. Break three of Amazon’s draconian rules and you’re out. Those three might include spending too much time in the toilet – employees are constantly monitored by GPS trackers – exchanging a greeting with a colleague on the shop floor or taking a sick day, unpaid of course. Then there are the notorious zero hours contracts. Add to this appalling exploitation the protracted war of attrition patiently waged against bricks and mortar bookshops by Amazon plus aggressive tax avoidance and it’s three strikes and you’re out for me, too.
So, next time you check out that book you’re desperate to read on Amazon, barely having to think about the price because it’s so low – and believe me I know how easy it is, I’ve done it many times – spare a thought for the poor ‘associate’ trudging the length of the warehouse to get it for you, then think about your local bookshop staffed by knowledgeable booksellers working their socks off to stay open and perhaps your library which might not have had to close if the likes of Amazon had paid taxes commensurate with the profits they make in our country. And remember, once they’ve attained that all-powerful position they’re after they’ll put their prices up – that’s what monopolies do. I know that this is something of a rant – it’s partly fuelled by guilt at my own book buying behaviour – but it’s well past time for me to put my money where my mouth is. Should you need any more convincing as to why we need bookshops read this eloquent post at These Little Words. She’s much less ranty than me. Back to books, tomorrow, I promise.