Retail giant Amazon revolutionized the way we as consumers shop with options like free two-day shipping, same-day pick-up, and virtually endless options of consumer goods, but now the company is changing the way employee performance is tracked and handled.
According to a report from The Verge, the retail giant has technology in place at its fulfillment centers that can track virtually every second of its employees' workday, and if any employee doesn't meet the standards set by each individual warehouse, they can be fired without ever speaking to a supervisor.
Welcome to our dystopian future.
In a letter by an attorney for Amazon obtained by The Verge, the company's fulfillment centers have a "deeply automated tracking system and termination process." The letter states that between August 2017 and September 2018, approximately 300 employees were fired from a single facility in Baltimore, Md., due to failing to meet quotas.
According to the letter:
"Amazon’s system tracks the rates of each individual associate’s productivity and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors."
But critics are starting to speak out against the practice of firing employees without any face-to-face communication with a supervisor.
"One of the things that we hear consistently from workers is that they are treated like robots in effect because they’re monitored and supervised by these automated systems," said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in an interview with The Verge. "They’re monitored and supervised by robots."
According to The Verge report, Amazon tracks a metric called "time off task" or TOT, which essentially boils down to the number and duration of breaks an employee will take throughout a shift. Maybe this system can explain why so many employees at fulfillment centers forgo taking bathroom breaks and end up peeing in bottles to stay on task.
In 2018, author James Bloodworth went undercover at an Amazon facility in the United Kingdom where he found that employees at the facility had a "toilet bottle" system in place because they didn't have time to get to the restrooms before getting written up.
"For those of us who worked on the top floor, the closest toilets were down four flights of stairs," Bloodworth told The Sun. "People just peed in bottles because they lived in fear of being disciplined over 'idle time' and losing their jobs just because they needed the loo."
But this probably won't stop any of us from shopping on Amazon. We'll continue to pay our annual Amazon Prime membership fee. We'll continue to take advantage of the free two-day shipping. And we'll continue to have these moral dilemmas every time we click "Buy Now With One Click."
What do you think? Does this change your opinion of Amazon? Let us know in the comments below.