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Ministers ‘must act’ as more than 80% of Amazon drivers say they’re pushed to drive dangerously

A survey of couriers for the company found a large majority claiming they are under intense pressure to hit demanding targets.

Ministers face calls to act to protect Amazon drivers after more than four in five said they are so busy they are forced into driving dangerously and never get time for a break at work.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has been asked to consider reforms such as a higher minimum wage for people who are on zero-hours contracts, as well as the right to request a fixed-term contract after 12 months with the same employer.

A recent poll of more than 700 Amazon delivery drivers which was conducted by campaign group Organise and shared with MPs, found that 82 per cent say they have to drive dangerously, such as breaking the speed limit, to hit targets which can be as high as 300 deliveries a day.

In total 92 per cent said they never get a break while working, 86 per cent do not have time to wash or sanitise their hands between deliveries and more than 90 per cent have had to urinate in a bottle because they have no access to a toilet. Most say the number of “drops” they are told to do in a day has increased significantly since this time last year.

One driver told Organise: “We just don’t stop during the day. Drivers are exhausted but we have to go on. Imagine driving a van 10 hours a day, without eating or drinking and hopping in and out continuously.”

In a letter to Mr Kwarteng, Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney said: “The drastic shift towards online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with Amazon’s ‘just-in-time’ logistics system have brought immense pressure on Amazon delivery workers.”

She asked him to confront Amazon directly and consider new legislation to improve the rights of gig economy workers, such as a minimum wage that is 20 per cent higher than for fixed-term employees to compensate for the added uncertainty.

Alex Marshall, president of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain who is also a former gig economy courier, called for more drastic action including ending the self-employed status of delivery drivers and legislating so that they get at least the living wage after taking costs into account.

Mr Marshall: said: “The comments collected in the Organise report sound all too familiar. Our Amazon Flex members have said they ‘feel like a slave’ and ‘nothing more than a number’.”

An Amazon spokesperson said: “We do not recognise these figures which do not reflect the positive feedback we receive from drivers every day. We’re hugely proud of the Amazon delivery service partner drivers who do such great work across the country, getting customers what they want, when they want, wherever they are. We are committed to ensuring drivers are fairly compensated and treated with respect.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly at work and rewarded for their contribution to the economy, both in terms of fair pay and fair working conditions. The UK has a strong record of protecting and enhancing workers’ rights, such as banning the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.

“We are committed to going even further, including establishing a single enforcement body to further protect vulnerable workers and earlier this month, we raised the national living wage and national minimum wage, and extended the national living wage to 23- and 24-year-olds for the first time.”

Author: Hugo Gye

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