‘I’m now delivering 320 parcels a day’: The pressure of Amazon delivery targets – BBC Newsnight

[Music] it's just so convenient isn't it you need you click you buy it arrives i was close to tears at that time i was cold i was hungry i needed the bathroom and it arrives so quickly which when so many shops are closed when you don't want or you can't leave your house seems a deliverance in every sense of the word and as disgusting as it sounds i just had to get a call or get my seaweed in a bottle and then go in the back of the van the drivers are telling them they need to listen to their drivers on this and they've got to stop ignoring the day and it's so cheap you don't even feel like you're paying for it but someone is it's the men and women bringing it to your door why is it that amazon drivers always seem to be in such a rush to deliver what you want to your front door well the answer is that they're in a race against time we've spoken to several current and former amazon drivers who've told us that the number of deliveries that they're being asked to make on a daily basis over the course of the pandemic has increased significantly and yet they've not been given the appropriate time to compensate as a result they say they are under considerable mental and physical pressure and are engaging in practices which are sometimes unsafe and even potentially illegal putting themselves and the public at risk for reasons you'll understand some of those who agreed to speak to us on camera did so on condition of an anonymity amazon is a company which is both ubiquitous and mysterious in many ways we know little about it we don't even know how many drivers deliver its parcels but we suppose it's in the thousands perhaps tens of thousands john we'll call him john is among them when i first started delivering parcels it was 120 130 drops with that's about 180 parcels a day when the pandemics started they started putting on more workload to the extent that now where it's 320 parcels and nearly 200 drops a day that drivers doing it's physically impossible sometimes and are you giving any extra pay for that any extra time to do that only during the peak periods which is six weeks prior to christmas and that's it john has delivered for amazon for nearly two years as stressful as it is in the main he continues to enjoy it but then there are those who deliver for a shorter time for instance two people were calling simon and gemma both lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and found work as amazon delivery drivers it was a no-brainer for me really i was as i said looking forward to it really looking forward to driving delivering and getting home and being with the family so you have two day training in a classroom and it was just going about safety of driving they were very big on safe driving i was totally unexpected to experience what i did based on what the training told me i'm fully aware of road safety you couldn't adhere to those rules based on what we had to do you've got 15 minutes to load your van and then there's some guys and a lot of us couldn't even fit what we had to get in the van so we're just trying to find other drivers to take the rest of the parcels and obviously that's stressing them and at that point i text the ops manager who then met me briefly for about a minute to run through the app provided with my boxes and tell me to go it was at that point i realized my first job was 38 miles away as soon as the driver is in the van it's the beginning of what can be a grueling experience if you think amazon knows a lot about you it is nothing to what it knows about its drivers every moment every second tracked monitored assessed by its in-vehicle app they monitor you through the app so they can see how fast you're going how many parcels you've delivered they just work everything out you have a time in the morning when you're at the depot and how quickly you've got to load your van they monitor on that they monitor you on times that you scan on scan off jobs so everything's being monitored and the workload's getting higher and it's getting harder and harder and harder to fulfill those routes in nine hours you become anxious immediately um you get a list of all the drivers and where they are behind or whether they're ahead or so you know if it's you behind you'll see straight away you'll get a visual um explanation that you're behind and that puts you at an anxious situation quite badly so if you're not meeting your target you get a message off your manager or whatever saying oh you're seven parcels behind what's going on on those messages it tells you how many drops you got to do so you know there was ones with 185 225 drops not packages drops so i think mine was 125 on my first day going down country lanes to deliver parcels when amazon don't even know how bad these lanes are it might take you 15 minutes to deliver one parcel just because of how bad a country lane is the app doesn't take account for that not a chance no just concentrating like oh speed up please speed up try your best to get as many as you can dawn and then obviously you're trying to speed up keep driving dangerously you can't deliver how amazon wants you to deliver so every time you hear a thing you're anxious you become more worried that you're not going to be able to reach your target the law says that the maximum a van driver can drive 4 is 10 hours amazon shifts and 9 hours that's why it's a race against the clock within that amazon says there's supposed to be a 30-minute lunch break but the drivers we've spoken to say that that is a remote prospect as are even more basic requirements toilet breaks weren't a thing um i'd because the van was so packed i'd have to wait until i emptied three totes just so i had a bit of room and as disgusting as it sounds i just had to get caught or get machinery in a bottle and then go in the back of the van okay admit it we've all been addicted to amazon during this entire pandemic in america just this week this issue has hit the headlines again with drivers alleging so little time to make their deliveries that they had to urinate into bottles amazon have denied this happens amazon responded and said you don't believe that that thing is that peeing and bottles thing is true but there are even more serious concerns about safety every amazon driver that i've known they all speed we all park in places where you're not supposed to double yellows on busy roads um especially say if you've got a house on a country lane and there's no parking near there you just have to sit up on the side of the road run across do your drop yes it's not safe you just gotta put your hazards on and hope for the best amazon told us they have a 24-hour hotline drivers can phone if they have problems but here's the rub they're not even technically employed by amazon they're self-employed contracted through a panoply of logistics companies and yet everything is controlled by amazon the route is set by amazon the workload is set by amazon the mileage is set by amazon so basically the logistics firm it's basically just a middleman really but say you don't get it done i mean does amazon re-employ you what i mean what or what happens with your logistics firm your ratings get reduced your ratings go down if you don't fulfill some parcels because of time constraints or the customer's not in then i think they base your ratings on eight or nine different ratings because if you don't deliver parcels your ratings come down so you're monitored all the time on every aspect of what you do i'm presuming and what happens then if your ratings continue to fall today the logistics firm will just get rid of you lay you off yep and that's quite easy oh it happens all the time the turnover of staff is phenomenal drivers attend an amazon training day they usually exclusively deliver for amazon and it is an amazon app which tracks and monitors them in their vehicles and yet remember because they're self-employed they don't have company benefits they don't get sick pay they don't get holiday pay and there is little recourse should the company decide that their services are no longer required the supreme court unanimously dismisses uber's appeal this isn't an issue about amazon alone all manner of gig economy companies are grappling with an evolving legal situation governing those they employ in one way or another but amazon is by far the biggest concern and a petition organized by change demanding that the number of deliveries is reduced has attracted nearly 80 000 signatures at least some of whom are verified amazon drivers its organizer says reform is long overdue and the company doesn't want to know what's really happening i think genuinely they're currently not gathering because they don't want to know the answer they know how dangerous this is their drivers are telling them they need to listen to their drivers on this and they've got to stop ignoring the data it's a really simple change for them to make to take those targets back to a safe level as you'll see we put a lot of energy into our logistics remember amazon is a company whose uk sales increased by 51 in 2020 a revenue of 20 billion pounds it has been the beneficiary of a pandemic which has accelerated our move to the online economy and yet at once it feels as if we've also gone backwards to a time when the rules about what can legitimately be expected by a company of its workers were much less rigid oh my gosh amazon i've tried a position at the warehouse with amazon politicians and perhaps the rest of us might need to ask ourselves if that's the future we want if that convenience is worth the price lewis goodwill a spokesperson from amazon told us at amazon we are proud to go further than most to ensure drivers are supported in their role our sophisticated guidance technology plans delivery routes advisors went to take a break and ensures that drivers aren't receiving and driving with too many packages and logistics uk which represents delivery companies said it had always championed best practice within the van sector to promote positive working conditions for drivers and protect both the safety of employees as well as of other road users

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