Amazon workers in Scotland are camping outside in the bitter cold to avoid travel costs

Amazon is once again under fire for sub-par conditions.
Amazon is once again under fire for sub-par conditions.
Image: Reuters/Noah Berger
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Amazon’s employees would apparently prefer to brave sub-zero temperatures than bear travel costs.

Some of the company’s workers have been choosing to camp out near their workplace—at least three tents were spotted in woodland beside the online retail giant’s Dunfermline location in Scotland by the Courier on Dec. 9. One abandoned tent had rubbish, discarded sleeping bags, cans of cider and other items scattered around it.

An unnamed worker told the Courier that Amazon was a “poor employer” and that camping was easier and cheaper than traveling 30 miles each way from his home in Perth. His tent disappeared by that afternoon, but two of the other tents—both abandoned—remained.

The Fife warehouse workers allegedly have to pay £10 ($12.69) per day to take company-arranged buses to work, and receive hourly pay of £7.35 ($9.33), according to an Amazon spokesperson quoted by the Courier, with overtime of £11 ($13.95) an hour. In an eight-hour shift without overtime, that means 17% of their daily wages go to transportation.

An Amazon spokesperson in Seattle wouldn’t comment on the Courier story about work conditions in Scotland.

In light of the tent revelation, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who has previously clashed with the multinational over wage and tax practices, told the Courier that “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,” Rennie said. “They pay a small amount of tax and received millions of the pounds from the SNP (Scottish National Party) Government so the least they should do is pay the proper living wage.” The US-based company received nearly £1 million ($1.27 million) in grants from the Scottish government over the course of 2015.

The Dunfermline fulfillment center has recruited nearly 4,000 temporary employees to cope with holiday orders. The center employs 1,500 people year-round.

During Black Friday, Scottish demonstrators accused Amazon of implementing a “six strikes and you’re sacked” rule—workers could have points docked for few minutes of lateness, frequent toilet breaks or walking at a slow pace within the confines of the warehouse. An undercover investigation by the Times newspaper in London (paywall) revealed that a sick leave with a doctor’s note could still beget penalties in Jeff Bezos’ empire.

Amazon is known for its tough work environment. A New York Times investigation in 2015, interviewing more than 100 current and former employees, painted a dystopian picture with overly long hours and unfair repercussions in the US. The Amazon spokesperson referred Quartz to a 2015 Medium post by senior vice president Jay Carney that refuted allegations in the NYT story. Among other things, Carney said the NYT story “misrepresented Amazon.”

This story has been updated to include comments from Amazon.