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Employees being paid to sing Amazon’s praises on social media

One worker, who Amazon says used to pack boxes at an Amazon facility in Florida, tweeted about air circulation at the online retailer’s warehouse being “very good.” Additionally, the worker who calls herself Shauntrelle, says workers there get two 30-minute breaks during their 10-hour shifts, something she calls “a benefit,” reports CNBC News.

Many on social media responded to Shauntrelle’s tweets, saying the messages were in fact, bots. But Shauntrelle responded, purposely misspelling a word in her answer: “We are totally noraml and not bots and we are totally happy working for an amazing company.”

The tweet-storms are all part of Amazon’s “out-of-the-box’ project to get the message out that employees do get to use the bathroom, and they are allowed to drink water. Yes, they do have really big fans to cool the warehouses down and no, employees are not on food stamps.

The “FC Ambassador” project started two weeks ago with 16 accounts set up on Twitter. The project is Jeff Bezos’ answer to Bernie Sanders’ negative comments on Bezoz’ wealth and allegations that there was a sharp rise in health and safety complaints at Amazon facilities following “Prime Day” on July 18.

However, one particularly damaging report published in April this year by the Verge is more disturbing. According to the Verge, an undercover reporter in the UK and a labor survey exposed harrowing work conditions in Amazon warehouses in the UK.

According to journalist James Bloodworth, who went undercover as an Amazon worker for his book, Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain, warehouse workers are forced to pee in bottles or forego their bathroom breaks entirely because fulfillment demands are too high.

Amazon s prime wardrobe.
Amazon’s prime wardrobe.

The journalist also cited high-tech security cameras looking for anyone trying to take something, and employees patting people down for contraband. His comments are in line with first-hand accounts collected in a survey by worker rights platform Organise, which reported that 74 percent of workers avoid using the toilet for fear of being warned they had missed their target numbers.
Amazon said in a statement to The Verge, “Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don’t recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.”
And while Amazon has facilities and warehouse around the world, the 16 Twitter accounts are almost mirror-images of one another. They all feature the Amazon smile logo and just the account holder’s first name. They are all warehouse workers, claiming to work in facilities from Kent, Washington to Jacksonville, Florida.

Carol, a picker at a warehouse in Kent, tweets that with base salary, bonuses and stock she makes around $15 an hour, not counting any overtime.

However, now that the cat is out of the bag, or perhaps warehouse is a better description, an Amazon spokesperson contacted the Guardian to clarify that the ambassadors undertake their work in a new, full-time capacity. “FC ambassadors are employees who have experience working in our fulfillment centers and choose to take the role of being an FC ambassador, do this full time, and receive their same compensation and benefits.”

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Mandel NGAN, AFP/File

ABC News reports that employee pay at Amazon warehouses differs, depending on what part of the country they may be in, with starting pay of $10 an hour at a warehouse in Austin, Texas, and $13.50 an hour in Robbinsville, New Jersey. But the pay differences are typical of the U.S.

And according to government filings, the average pay for an Amazon employee last year was $28,446, which includes full-time, part-time and temporary workers. Jeff Bezos’ total compensation was nearly $1.7 million.

Bottom line – There is a very good reason for the latest revelation from Amazon. While the job market is strong, the holiday season will be here soon and Amazon, like many other e-commerce players, they may find it harder to find part-time warehouse workers.

David Lewis, CEO of human resources consultancy OperationsInc, says people search Twitter to learn about companies, “and positive messages could mitigate the sting or bite of negative ones.”

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