On Amazon’s Time
June 13, 2018 9:30 PM Subscribe
Gizmodo reports on Amazon's "Voluntary" Time Off (VTO) scheme, whereby workers are encouraged, incentivized, or even forced to work fewer hours in order to improve the efficiency of their distribution centers.
It’s little wonder then that the foremost complaint among the people I spoke to was pay. Already low hourly wages, frequent VTO, minimal bonuses, lack of cost of living adjustments, and capped pay increases were a source of diminished quality of life. “I maxed out what I can earn as my pay grade three years after I was hired into Amazon,” an associate who has been with the company nearly seven years said. He claims that repeated attempts to apply for a higher-paid managerial position have been met with excuses or ignored outright. One picker in Kentucky—the densest state in terms of Amazon facilities compared to population—claimed he wears out a pair of sneakers every month from the amount of walking the job demands. “Take that away from $12.50 an hour and you’ll see how quickly it adds up to not much money,” he joked. The irony of working in the former Zappos warehouse which still primarily stores and ships shoes wasn’t lost on him.
An associate in Indiana went so far as to guess that recent reports of Amazon workers’ reliance on food stamps in many states was a direct result of excessive VTO.
The obvious line of questioning when faced with similar testimony of multiple associates operating in separate facilities is what Amazon accomplishes with VTO that couldn’t be achieved by simply reducing its staff. There’s no question excess staff can of course help warehouses absorb upticks in volume, though how many surprises there could be for a company like Amazon with access to troves of individualized customer data spanning over two decades is dubious.
However, the recent focus on Amazon’s Battle Royale-style search for a second headquarters has brought its reliance on state and local incentives into renewed focus. Although the particulars of deals the company strikes with the cities it agrees to operate in are often kept from the public eye and redacted in Freedom of Information Requests, local reporting over the years indicates that at least in some cases, a stipulation of the considerable funds, tax breaks, and other incentives the company squeezes out are predicated on the number of jobs it creates.
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