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Amazon Insect Invasion Call

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

GMB Calls On Amazon For Risk Assessment Of Threats To Staff And Economy Of Insect Invasion In Imported Packaging

In May 2014 the Ecological Society of America showed that the emerald ash borer has been carried into North America in recent times with the wooden packing material of imported goods says GMB.

GMB, the union for staff at Amazon, is calling on the company to conduct as a matter of urgency a risk assessment of the dangers to the health and safety of staff and potential damage to the UK economy and environment, of insect invasion in wood and other packaging of goods imported from abroad.

This call arises after a GMB member employed by Amazon in one of the depots fell ill after handling packaging on goods imported into the UK.  The member is convinced that the illness is linked to insects carried in the packaging.

Amazon employs 7,000 permanent staff and about 10,000 casual staff in the UK. It also employs 5,000 seasonal staff. Amazon has operations in Croydon, Doncaster, Dunfermline, Gourock, Hemel Hempstead, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Rugeley, Swansea, Slough and Holborn in London. The vast majority of the 22,000 staff are paid £6.39 per hour with the permanent staff starting on £7 per hour.

Amazon plans to double the number of warehouses it operates in Britain in the next three years.

GMB has being warning the public that the high tech way Amazon process orders and tracks inventory disguises that it is also a traditional labour intensive mail order retail business. See notes to editors for some GMB views on Amazon.

Jeff Beck, GMB Regional Officer in South Wales, said “Amazon is in denial that insect invasion is even possible. GMB is not expert in this field but are aware that this stance is not sustainable.

 In May 2014 the Ecological Society of America showed that the emerald ash borer has been carried into North America in recent times with the wooden packing material of imported goods. They said it is projected to cause over a billion dollars in damages annually over the next decade.

Scientists have called for treatment to prevent wood borer introduction and say it is worthwhile when the cumulative damages of widening infestations are considered. This is but one example on insect invasion. There is evidence of others too.

GMB want Amazon to undertake a proper risk assessment, involving proper experts in the field of insect invasion and health professionals, to come to conclusions on the threats invasions pose to the health and safety of members in their warehouses and to the wider economy.

GMB want to see Amazon specify that suppliers and shippers use packaging materials that have been properly treated to prevent insect invasion.”


Contact Jeff Beck 07980 753 112 Martin Smith 07974 251 722 or Mick Conroy GMB Scotland 07921 289737 or  Andy Prendergast 07984 492 726 or Richard Owen Milton Keynes 07974 179285 or Colin Griffiths 07957 264 612 Rugeley. 

Notes to editors

Some GMB views on Amazon business model, on employment and taxation:

Amazon relies on a road network funded by taxpayers for the business to business delivery of products to warehouses and for the business to customer delivery to private homes. It relies on large numbers of staff to receive the goods, to pick and pack them to meet customer orders.

Where it differs from other retailers is its refusal to pay proper taxes or to treat its workers properly.   This gives Amazon an unfair competitive advantage and is part of the reason why so many established high street names are going to the wall.

GMB is working to strip away the high tech image and expose the exploitation involved in their business model.

Many staff at Amazon are actually employed by employment agencies in casual or temporary jobs with no job security and no guaranteed incomes. Using employment to meet fluctuating demand for labour is equivalent to selection at the dock gates in Victorian times and is casual labour of the worst kind.

Amazon pays its UK staff just above the national minimum wage of £6.31 per hour. Paying a minimum wage rather than a wage workers can live on obliges taxpayers to top up wages for staff with families. Working families tax credit is a subsidy to a company like Amazon which pays little corporation taxes. 

Staff complain about a culture of bullying and harassment endemic in the dataveillance that comes from staff being required to wear digital arm mounted terminals AMTs with no agreed protocols re breaks, speeds etc.

Requiring employees to wear AMTs and subjecting them to dataveillance, while denying them union rights, takes away the consent essential for the positive use of digital arm-band devices. Members say it is human automation – they are kind of robots with no say. We need to work on improving ergonomics for our members.

GMB seeks to ensure that Amazon pays proper taxes. In 2006 Amazon transferred its UK business to Luxembourg and reclassified its UK operation as simply "order fulfilment" business to qualify for lower taxes. The Luxembourg office employs 380 people. The UK operation employs 15,000. GMB has called for this abuse to stop.


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