WORKING in an Amazon warehouse, a woman in the last months of pregnancy was forced to stand for ten hours a day, while another says she suffered a miscarriage, a new study published yesterday showed. The report highlighted the terrible conditions where ‘workers are treated like robots’.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said: ‘When I found I was pregnant, I asked my manager to be transferred to a different department. I was told I could not be transferred and must continue picking, which involves bending, stretching and moving a heavy cart, and walking miles.
‘After a while I told them I could not walk so many miles and I could not pick from low locations. I had a meeting with a safety manager and was told, “It’s not what you want, it is what we decide.” My manager told me that most women are working on picking until their maternity leave. I know this is true, because I saw ladies with huge bumps picking.’
An investigation by the GMB trade union shows that ambulances have been called out 600 times to 14 Amazon warehouses in the last three years. During the past three years at Amazon’s Rugeley site, ambulances were called 115 times, including three for women due to pregnancy/maternity and three for major trauma. Other disturbing examples include electrocution, unconsciousness, a building on fire and chest pains.
A 24-year-old Amazon warehouse worker, Aaron Callaway, described having just 15 seconds to scan items and place them into the right cart during his night shifts. Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: ‘I’ve never seen figures like this – Amazon Rugeley must be one of the most dangerous places to work in Britain. Amazon should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. Companies like Amazon should be treating staff with respect, not treating them like robots.’
Amazon have recently patented a wristband that tracks warehouse workers’ movements. The bracelet vibrates to point an employee’s hand in the right direction. The bracelet tracks the worker’s every movement, how fast they work, when they make mistakes, when they go for a break, their heart rate and tiredness levels. Amazon is turning low-paid staff into ‘human robots’ – working alongside thousands of non-human robots – carrying out repetitive packaging tasks as fast as possible in an attempt to hit goals set by handheld computers, while under constant surveillance.
The Amazon example where automated technology is used to turn workers into automatons is catching on! There is now an ‘explosion’ in the use of drones that will save construction companies billions, a report by accountants PwC predicts, through driving up human productivity.
Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC, said: ‘Drones have the potential to offer a powerful new perspective for businesses across a variety of industries, delivering both productivity benefits and increased value from the data they collect.’ In other words, workers will be overseen and policed by drones, recording them as they work, relaying images back to managers who can assess their ‘productivity’ and intervene to drive it up.
Rather than the march of science and technology being used to make people’s lives easier and alleviate them from monotonous tasks, automation under capitalism is being used to make workers’ lives a living hell. Automation is to be used to sack hundreds of thousands of workers, replacing them with robots, while the workers who are left are being driven to work faster, harder, longer, with less breaks … forced to work like robots, all to ‘drive up productivity’ and make vast profits for bosses and bankers.
Automated technology has the potential to drive society forward. Under capitalism it is, in fact, driving society back into the abyss. Karl Marx fought for technological advance under the ownership and control of the working class to be the basis of a socialist and then a communist society, where the maxim for human beings will be ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their need’.
Under capitalism, automation is driving forward a new nightmare for humanity, whose horrors are a daily warning to the working class of the extreme necessity for a socialist revolution that will bring in a planned economy worldwide to take humanity forward from stone-age capitalism to real freedom, that is socialism and communism.