MP slams ‘awful’ working conditions of drivers delivering for Amazon

The Amazon depot entrance on Hellesdon Hall Road at Hellesdon. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Amazon depot entrance on Hellesdon Hall Road at Hellesdon. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has blasted the working practices of companies delivering Amazon parcels following an investigation by this newspaper.

The Labour MP wrote to the Government’s secretary of state for business, Kwasi Kwarteng, on Wednesday of his “deep concern” about the way drivers were being treated by companies which Amazon contracts to deliver from its Norwich depot. 

An investigation by this newspaper revealed some drivers earned less than £2 an hour after being charged around £200 a week to hire vans.

The drivers have no guarantee of work, but still have to pay a full week’s van hire to the companies, whether they work or not. 

Drivers also reported having to urinate in bottles, break speed limits and not take breaks, as required by law, because they were under so much pressure to complete their routes in time.

An Amazon spokesman said: "We are committed to ensuring drivers are fairly compensated and treated with respect, and this is reflected by the positive feedback we receive from drivers every day."

The Amazon depot entrance on Caley Close at Hellesdon. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Amazon depot entrance on Caley Close at Hellesdon - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Drivers spoken to by this newspaper also had hundreds of pounds in wages deducted for van damages when they left the contractors, but had no way to dispute the damage or cost of the repairs.

One driver, Andy Cooper from Caister-on-Sea, was invoiced £1800 for repair work for a van which the contractor, a company, called KMI Logistics, had sold and not repaired. KMI did not respond to requests for comment. 

Another, Craig Morrish, from Bowthorpe, had £950 taken from his payslips for van damages by KMI. It left him with £38.80 for four weeks work in August last year. 

Craig Morrish

Craig Morrish had several weeks of pay withheld after being charged almost £1,000 by a company he was contracted through to deliver for Amazon. - Credit: Archant

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Mr Lewis wrote: “These are awful working conditions, but by using these sub-contracted companies, Amazon removes itself from a responsibility to safeguard their workers and a general duty of care."

He added: “The practices of Amazon and the companies they sub-contract are not fit for the 21st century."

He called on Mr Kwarteng to “call out” Amazon and their sub-contractors and insist drivers were paid fairly. 

Kwasi Kwarteng responds to a debate in the House of Commons

Kwasi Kwarteng responds to a debate in the House of Commons - Credit: Parliament Live

Mr Lewis, a former shadow business secretary, also asked Mr Kwarteng to share his plans to “end this routine and systematised exploitation of some of my city's most precariously employed workers”.

MP for Norwich (South) Clive Lewis at the Fridays for Future climate protest on the steps of city ha

MP for Norwich South Clive Lewis - Credit: Archant

The UK’s biggest trade union, Unite, also responded to this newspaper’s findings, stating: “The treatment of these drivers should not be allowed in 21st century Britain.”

Last week, Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, told shareholders “we need to do a better job for our employees”. 

But he added: “If you read some of the news reports, you might think we have no care for employees. In those reports, our employees are sometimes accused of being desperate souls and treated as robots. That’s not accurate. They’re sophisticated and thoughtful people who have options for where to work.”

However, the delivery drivers are not Amazon employees. They are instead hired as “independent contractors” by local companies which Amazon contracts. It means they have reduced workers' rights and no company benefits such as holiday, sick and maternity pay.

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