14:09 GMT12 April 2021
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    Amazon has once again been accused of wretched treatment of its workers, this time by a Scottish politician, who called conditions at a warehouse in the country "intolerable."

    The company annually hires tens of thousands of temporary workers to run its fulfillment centers around the world during the busy winter holiday season.

    Scottish Liberal Democratic Party leader Willie Rennie blasted the massive online retailer after a Courier report found that workers at an Amazon warehouse in Dunfermline were sleeping in tents in the cold in the nearby woods to save money on commuting. At least three tents have been spotted.

    Temporary workers at the warehouse are under constant pressure to hit order-transfer targets and are penalized for taking sick days, and though days in the warehouse can mean up to 10 miles of walking, water dispensers are often empty, the Guardian reported, citing a Sunday Times investigation. Staff have to pay to catch an agency-provided bus to the Dunfermline site.

    "Amazon should be ashamed that they pay their workers so little that they have to camp out in the dead of winter to make ends meet," Rennie told The Courier.

    "They pay a small amount of tax and received millions of pounds from the [Scottish National Party] government so the least they should do is pay the proper living wage. The fares the company charge for transport swallow up a lot of the weekly wage which is forcing people to seek ever more desperate ways of making work pay," he said.

    "Amazon have created intolerable working conditions for many," the Guardian quoted Rennie as saying. "They have generated an oppressive culture where management and some workers put undue pressure on workers. It's time for Amazon to finally change their ways. That means a change to wages and to working conditions."

    This is not the first time the MP has criticized Amazon, a company worth over $300 billion, for mistreating its employees. In January, he said the company was avoiding paying tax and paying employees below Scotland's current living wage.

    Working conditions at the massive retailer have been the subject of scathing commentary for years. A Business Insider overview of 2013 collected reports detailing workplaces either freezing from constantly open doors or so hot workers faint.  Workers allege they have been fired for getting sick or for crying. Conditions are described as prison-like, with workers patted down at the end of shifts. A 2015 New York Times report found the company's corporate environment to be brutally competitive and unrelenting even for employees facing personal crises. 

    A British trade union last year said working conditions at UK fulfillment centers were making its employees physically and emotionally ill. 

    Responding to reports of Scottish employees sleeping in tents, Amazon said in a statement that it "provides a safe and positive workplace with competitive pay and benefits from day one."

    The company said it had created thousands of new permanent roles in the UK.

    "We offer associates a range of roles in our fulfilment centers, depending on their preferences. Some roles involve walking a number of miles each day, a fact we make clear during the recruitment process. Many associates seek these positions as they enjoy the active nature of the work. There are many opportunities for people who prefer less active roles.

    "As with nearly all companies, we expect a certain level of performance from our associates. Productivity targets are set objectively, based on previous performance levels achieved by our workforce." They also said water was readily available.

    UK Labor MP Frank Field said the government should look into conditions at Amazon, the Guardian reported.

    "Inquiries take time but over that time the injustices are growing," he said. "There have been reports on Hermes and Uber done by my office, and now the Sunday Times investigation — there is enough information out there."

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    Tags:
    mistreatment, workers' rights, working conditions, Amazon, Willie Rennie, Dunfermline, Scotland
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