An investigation of Amazon’s practices towards its UK delivery drivers has revealed inhumane conditions including drivers being required to make up to 200 deliveries a day and having to urinate in water bottles because there’s no time for a bathroom break – and all for subminimum wages.
The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency, part of the United Kingdom’s Department of Transport, began an investigation after seven drivers for Prospect Commercial, Ltd., a Kent-based third-party delivery company that partners with Amazon, sued the online shopping colossus for mistreatment.
“We take any allegations extremely seriously and fully investigate any concerns raised about drivers and operators breaking the rules. Any driver or operator breaking drivers’ hours rules is putting other road users at risk and could face losing their licence and livelihood,” said enforcement manager Matt Barker to The Independent.
The Sunday Mirror launched an investigation of their own and reported that drivers regularly work days longer than 11 hours (the legally mandated maximum) and are forced to break speed limits to meet delivery goals that don’t take into account traffic or weather.
They also do anything they can to maximize time so they can complete their deliveries, including skipping lunch and urinating in plastic bottles. Many drivers work 12 to 14 hour shifts, earning $962 a week — and paying $267 of that, or two days’ wages, in van rental and insurance costs. One worker claimed to have taken home a net paycheck of only $285 for a 60-hour work week after paying van costs and fuel.
“Amazon sent an email to all managers to try to stop drivers carrying bottles filled with urine,” one driver told The Sunday Mirror. “The security guards were reporting people for it. But [fault for] the allocation and number of stops, and the volume to be distributed for any given day, lies entirely with Amazon.”
Amazon does not employ the drivers directly, instead recruiting them through third-party agencies such as Prospect Commercial. However, the workers receive their assignments and delivery routes through an Amazon app.
An Amazon spokesman told the Sunday Mirror that any mistreatment is the fault of the third-party delivery providers. “Our delivery providers are expected to ensure drivers receive a minimum £12 per hour before deductions and excluding bonuses, incentives and fuel reimbursements,” they said.
“We are committed to ensuring that the people contracted by our independent delivery providers are fairly compensated, treated with respect, follow all applicable laws and driving regulations and drive safely.”
Prospect Commercial, Ltd. issued a similar claim. “We work hard to provide a good service and supportive work environment for our self-employed contracted drivers,” they said in a statement. “We provide competitive compensation to contracted drivers, who receive a rate in excess of the national living wage after deductions, and this is regularly audited.”
In the UK alone, Amazon recorded $9.74 billion in sales in 2016. Less than 0.1 percent of that was paid in taxes due to the company’s use of offshore tax havens.