Bezos says Amazon employees are not treated like robots, and unveils a robotic plan to keep them working
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in his last letter to shareholders as CEO that the e-commerce giant must “do a better job for our employees”. The letter comes amid persistent reports of unsustainable conditions for Amazon employees. And it outlines a strategy that seems strange to a company accused of treating workers like robots: a robotic program that will develop new workforce schedules using an algorithm.
Bezos pushed back the idea that Amazon doesn’t care about its employees, according to news reports. “In those reports, our employees are sometimes accused of being desperate souls and of being treated like robots. That’s not right, ”he wrote.
To address concerns about working conditions, Bezos said the company will develop new workforce schemes “that use advanced algorithms to switch workers between jobs using different muscle tendon groups to reduce repetitive movements and protect workers from MSD risks.” The technology will be rolled out in 2021, he said.
In addition to a nod to working conditions at Amazon, the letter marks the first time Bezos has publicly addressed the botched union action at his Bessemer, Alabama factory. Is your chairman comforting the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t, ”wrote Bezos. “I think we should do better for our employees. Although the voting results were skewed and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it is clear to me that we need a better one vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success. “
Amazon released a rare public apology earlier this month, after it was publicly caught lying to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) that his employees have never had to urinate in water bottles to meet their job requirements. This is a well-documented Amazon issue because of the way it robotically tracks and fires employees. An Amazon employee told Motherboard as recently as the end of March that bathroom breaks (or lack thereof) were still an issue. “You sit there and you have to take a piss, but you don’t want to earn ‘free time,'” said the worker. In addition, Amazon is facing a lawsuit over employees’ missed lunch breaks.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the trade union for retail, wholesale and department stores that led the trade union organization’s action in Bessemer, said in a statement Thursday that the impact of the union action, regardless of the outcome, is “devastating” to Amazon’s reputation.
“We have started a global debate about how Amazon treats its employees,” Appelbaum wrote. Bezos’ confession today shows that what we have said about workplace conditions is correct. But his admission does not change anything, workers need a union not just any Amazon public relations effort on harm reduction. “