We're about half way though Australia's first Amazon Prime Day and there have been plenty of good deals on offer. But in the midst of the offers made by Amazon and its partners, there's another aspect we ought to consider.
Warehouse workers across Europe are on strike, protesting the company's treatment of staff in fulfilment centres. These allegations have dogged Amazon for some time, not just in Europe but also in the US. Should we skip Prime Day and support these workers?
A detailed report at Forbes goes through the allegations made against Amazon. These include
- Long hours without compensation
- Poor working conditions including very hot environments
- Having ambulances on hand rather than pay for air conditioning
- Being forced to skip bathroom breaks
- No opportunity to negotiate for better conditions
- Dodging taxes
And last week, when I looked at purchasing ethical technology, I noted that Amazon was ranked at the bottom of 15 companies analysed by Greenpeace.
In short, the allegations made against Amazon are very troubling.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and leader of Amazon is quoted as saying "Your margin is my opportunity". In other words, he's looking for every possible opportunity to undercut his competition to beat them on price.
One way he can reduce costs is by managing his staff "efficiently". That means using fewer people to do more work while paying them less. If the allegations are true, it also means curtailing access to bathrooms to get even more out of workers. It's cost cutting initiatives like this that make Amazon's prices lower than other retailers.
Faced with this mounting case, I think we should all pause and consider whether shopping at Amazon and saving a few dollars is really the most ethical thing we can do. I'm not saying a boycott is right or wrong - only you can make that decision for yourself. But I do think, that faced with all the information on hand, it's worth taking a breath and deciding if the allegations ring true and whether that demands we change our behaviour and take our shopping dollars elsewhere.