Amazon accused of using peer pressure to make staff work even when sick

The policy sets workers against each other and people are only attracted by the 'paid sickness bonus' because wages are too low, says union boss 

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The Independent Online

Amazon has been accused of setting workers against each other to ensure they turn up for work even when they are sick and should be at home.

The company gives its workers in Germany a monthly bonus of 6 per cent to 10 per cent of their salary - but only if their co-workers have good enough attendance records. Union representatives say the company is relying on peer pressure to make sure its workers don’t pull sickies. 

Thomas Voss, a spokesperson for Verdi, the union that represents Amazon staff in Germany, told The Independent: “Our union sees this as an unsuitable remedy because it does not fight the causes of disease. It only ensures that the employees go to work even when they are ill."

The policy sets workers against each other and people are only attracted by the bonus because wages are too low, Mr Voss said, adding that the primary cause of sick leave at the company is poor working conditions, “but Amazon does not want to admit this”.

Under German law, workers are entitled to full pay when off sick and, according to Quartz, it is not uncommon for companies to pay out “bonuses” for not taking time off, but to base this on group attendance is unique.

A spokesperson for Amazon said: "We want our employees to both arrive at and return from work in good health. All agreements regarding the health bonus were agreed in accordance with local works councils, and comply with the legal requirements of the Continued Remunerations Law, as a matter of course. The agreements may differ from location to location."

It is not the first time that Amazon has been at the centre of controversy about its treatment of employees. 

Earlier this month Amazon was among companies heavily criticised by MPs for getting UK staff to sign “unintelligible” contracts that seem designed to stop them asserting their employment rights.

In December, some Amazon workers reportedly resorted to camping near the company's Dunfermline warehouse in sub-zero temperatures to save money commuting to work

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said:  “Amazon should be ashamed that they pay their workers so little that they have to camp out in the dead of winter to make ends meet.

“Amazon need to take a long, hard look at themselves and change their ways.

“They pay a small amount of tax and received millions of pounds from the SNP Government so the least they should do is pay the proper living wage.

A Sunday Times investigation found temporary warehouse workers had been sanctioned for taking sick days. It also claimed that staff could walk up to 10 miles a day at work but water dispensers were often empty.