18th November 2022
DCMS Inquiry - 'Connected Tech - Smart or Sinister?'
I am writing on behalf of Amazon. We watched your most recent evidence session for your inquiry into Connected Tech with great interest and wanted to follow up with you and the Committee members directly as we are conscious there were several mentions and allegations made about Amazon. As one of the UK’s largest employers we take our responsibility to our workforce extremely seriously. We are constantly looking at ways to make improvements and take on employee feedback. Whilst we know there is always more we can do, and will continue to do, we do not recognise the picture that was painted about our working practices in the UK during your last evidence session. We are keen to ensure you and the Committee have the correct details.
We would also be delighted to invite you and the Committee to visit one of our Fulfilment Centres in person and see the great workplace we provide for our employees and the innovative technology that supports them.
Firstly, I wanted to set out some background on Amazon’s footprint in the UK and the skills and training opportunities that we provide our employees. It spans business units from online retail and physical stores to Amazon Web Services (AWS), Research & Development Centres, Alexa, Prime Video, and Amazon Music as well as more than 30 state-of-the-art fulfilment centres and over 70 delivery stations. Amazon’s mission is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company and we are striving to be Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work.
Since 2010, Amazon has invested more than £43 billion in our operations in the UK. By the end of this year, we will employ over 75,000 staff in the UK directly, and support a further 410,000 indirectly, making us one of the UK’s top ten private employers. Amazon’s retail business provides over 85,000 UK based small and medium sized businesses with access to a global marketplace and to Amazon’s retail and digital expertise, and we are proud that over 50% use Amazon to export to customers internationally. Organisations of all kinds are also using cloud services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to become more innovative and secure, as well as reduce their costs. Earlier this year, AWS announced that it expects to invest over £1.8 billion over the next two years to help strengthen the UK’s digital infrastructure.
In 2021, Amazon created over 25,000 jobs across the UK and 1,000 full-time apprenticeships. In 2022, we announced a further 4,000 jobs as well as 1,500 apprenticeships across over 40 different programmes including IT, HR, health and safety through to broadcast production, software engineering, finance and creative digital design. Amazon apprenticeships attract people from a range of backgrounds including military veterans and workers retraining mid-career. Beyond apprenticeships, we offer a range of career development benefits including our innovative Career Choice programme, which funds 95% of tuition, books and fees for nationally recognised courses up to £8,000 over four years so employees can progress in their careers at Amazon or elsewhere.
Technology in the workplace and how it supports our employees
We want to stress that we do not track nor do we have the intention to track, the location or movements of our employees. Like many companies, we file a number of forward-looking patent applications that explore the full possibilities of new technology. We develop and implement innovative technologies in our operations to enable a better customer experience and to enhance the safety and ergonomics of our processes. When companies invest
in technologies that support employees, it makes their jobs better and it increases efficiencies. Automation in our fulfilment centres redirects employee focus to more sophisticated tasks.
We understand there are questions about the impact of automation on the labour market. But in our experience, we have found that AI, Machine Learning and other technologies serve to create a better work environment, augmenting and supporting our people, rather than replacing them. In our fulfilment and logistics operations, we use software and hardware to automate the most difficult and repetitive tasks, reducing mental and physical stress for workers. The use of state-of-the art robotics has cut down on walking time in our Fulfilment Centres, whilst also creating a need for more jobs ranging from our Mechatronics and Robotics apprentices to our engineers who operate and maintain the advanced machinery.
For example, by integrating robotic technology into operations, we can now reconfigure workstations and reduce the distances employees need to walk to pick products, reducing physical demands. We also have a dedicated European Innovation Lab in Italy launched last May, which is tasked with developing new technologies to further enhance the employee experience and workplace safety. Since the European Advanced Technology team’s
creation, more than 550 new pieces of technology have been introduced and more than €400 million has been
invested across Amazon fulfilment centres in Europe.
Safety is always our number one priority. In the past 12 months alone, we’ve conducted more than 418,210 safety compliance inspections across our UK network. Globally, we have invested hundreds of millions in safety improvements across our network spanning state-of-the art safety technology in our vans, driver-safety training programmes, and continuous improvements within our mapping and routing technology,
We have also introduced safety technology called Netradyne in 2,000 vehicles following a successful deployment in the US, and appreciate this technology was raised during the session. Its mission is to transform road and fleet safety by using advanced vision technology to change the way drivers interact with the road around them, therefore creating safer roadways. We have done comprehensive data privacy assessment in line with European (including UK) privacy laws before rolling out the technology in Europe. Any external footage containing personal data is blurred (i.e. people’s faces, house numbers, license plate numbers) to protect the privacy of members of the public, customers of Amazon and drivers when outside the vehicle. Once the vehicle ignition goes off, the external facing camera turns off. More than half of our U.S. fleet has been fitted with the technology, and we continue to see remarkable safety improvements including:
We also track our progress on our safety protocols and benchmark against UK national data, published by the Health & Safety Executive. We have over 50% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing businesses in the UK. We have teams of Safety Professionals at each of our sites dedicated to solving complex problems and establish new industry best practices. We only commence operations at a site after it has successfully passed 2,500 safety checkpoints and have strict equipment and machine design, installation testing and compliance standards that are regularly reviewed with manufacturers and vendors. Our WorkingWell programme, which aims to further improve health and safety and includes training on how to lift and carry parcels
to reduce muscular skeletal injuries has received positive feedback and we also offer Mental Health Awareness training for all employees and managers run by the UK mental health charity, Mind.
While we’re proud of our safety record, we recognise there’s always more to do. That’s why we continue to invent and invest to eliminate and manage hazards. We’re continuing to build our expert teams too, hiring and developing the best safety professionals and maintaining a single-minded focus on reducing risks and eliminating hazards.
A number of misleading allegations were made about our working conditions and we are keen to set the record straight:
We are aware this is a topic that we are asked about frequently. We place enormous value on having daily
conversations with each associate and work to make sure we engage directly with our employees. It’s a strong part of our work culture. We respect our employees’ right to join, form or not to join a trade union or other lawful organisation of their own selection. We do not ask our employees if they are members of unions and we do not have any records of union membership.
We have many mechanisms and procedures to ensure that our employees are always engaged, respected and listened to at work. These include:
We are proud that we offer competitive pay, comprehensive benefits and excellent opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment. Every full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary member of staff will earn at least £10.50/hour and up to £11.45/hour, depending on location. We also have a step plan in place for +25p per hour once employees have worked with us for 3 years, and anniversary bonus for 5, 10, 15 and 20-years continuous service with Amazon (£1,250 at 5 years, all the rest are £2,500). All Amazon permanent employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package, including private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, a company pension plan, subsidised meals and an employee discount, which combined are worth thousands annually.
We hope you find this information useful and do let us know if you’d like any further details.
Head of UK Operations Public Policy