Amazon’s demanding culture of worker productivity has been revealed in multiple investigations. But a new report indicates that the company doesn’t just track worker productivity at its warehouses – it has a system that can automatically fire them.
Amazon has fired more than 300 workers, citing productivity, at a single facility in Baltimore in a single year (August 2017 through September 2018), the Verge’s Colin Lecher reports. The Verge cites a letter by an Amazon attorney as part of a case with the National Labor Relations Board.
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider, “Approximately 300 employees turned over in Baltimore related to productivity in this timeframe. In general, the number of employee terminations have decreased over the last two years at this facility as well as across North America.”
Amazon’s system tracks a metric called “time off task,” meaning how much time they pause or take breaks, the Verge reports. As has been previously reported, some workers feel so pressured that they don’t take bathroom breaks.
If the system determines the employee is failing to meet production targets, it can automatically issue warnings and terminate them, without a supervisor’s intervention, although Amazon points out that a human supervisor can override the system. The company also says it provides training to those who don’t meet their production goals.
While all employees in every job know they will be fired if they fail to meet their performance objectives, few of us are managed by an automated system tracking our every movement that has full authority to make that decision.
And, of course, people are not robots. People have highly productive days and less productive days. The true benefit of a human workforce isn’t to be used like cogs in a production wheel, but that humans are creative, can solve problems, can learn and grow, if they are given the breathing room to contribute.
Nevertheless, Amazon’s mechanisms for exacting productivity are pervasive in many areas of its operations. For instance, drivers delivering Amazon packages have also reported feeling so pressured, they speed through neighbourhoods, blow by stop signs and pee in bottles in the trucks or outside, as Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson reported.
And as Amazon’s business continues to grow, the company’s need to deliver ever-more packages as fast as possible isn’t going away any time soon.