An undercover probe has discovered the horrendous conditions that delivery drivers who work for online giants Amazon are forced to work under.
The problems – which include being threatened with the sack for trivial errors and having to urinate in bottles in their vans because they can’t take breaks – are heightened in the lead-up to the festive season.
Experts and politicians have called for an urgent investigation into the Daily Record’s findings at a leading Scottish depot of the firm.
The Record’s reporter spent nearly three weeks working as a “self-employed” van driver with courier companies making deliveries for Amazon.
Its findings reveal how drivers:
● Regularly work “illegal” 12-hour shifts – earning less than the minimum wage
● Get no holiday pay, sick pay or pensions as they are classed as self-employed
● Are charged to rent vans – which sometimes equates to the cost of buying the vehicle
● Are threatened with the sack for minor mistakes
● Complain to management that they are forced to drive dangerously in order to complete orders
● Have money deducted from wages to pay for criminal history checks, drug and alcohol testing
● Resort to urinating in bottles in the van because they can’t get a break
Unions said the findings showed courier firms were exploiting workers in search of profit.
Experts said the internet giants were failing workers both “legally and morally” by allowing the
practices to go on under their watch.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “These are shocking revelations.
“ Amazon have a long history of poor pay and conditions for their workers – and now it seems they are passing those on to delivery drivers as well.
“These reports must be urgently investigated.”
The reporter got a job with a courier firm based at Amazon’s depot at Eurocentral in Lanarkshire, one of several delivery companies the firm use all over the UK.
The warehouse is one of five in Scotland. Delivery firms then take the packages on what is called “the final mile” as Amazon don’t directly employ the couriers in the UK.
Before being hired, criminal, alcohol and drug testing was carried out.
The £100 cost of the tests were deducted from the reporter’s wages.
He was asked to commit to working five days a week, including the weekend, despite being self-employed, and joined about 30 other drivers the firm had on their books.
He agreed to rent a van from the firm for £750 per month. That works out at £9000 per year and is roughly what the van was worth, according to a car valuation website.
He was initially supervised by other drivers, with one telling him how he made more money delivering takeaways on his time off.
Another said drivers were forced to urinate in bottles because getting a toilet break meant finishing late.
Other former drivers complained they had been let go for being ill.
By the end of November, the reporter was tasked with making his own deliveries, earning just £74.50 a shift after vehicle costs were deducted.
He would head to Eurocentral to pick up his load for 8am before heading to the west of Scotland to make the deliveries.
Within a week – which included the aftermath of Black Friday – the reporter was working more than 12 hours a day to deliver between 150 and 200 parcels. That works out at just £6.20 an hour.
The minimum wage for an adult over 25 in the UK is £7.83.
Other drivers faced the same gruelling hours.
One said Amazon were asking them to do too much.
He said: “By the time you get to your first drop it’s 10.15am. You are lucky if you have done 40 drops by 12.30pm and then you have another 90-plus to do.
“Darkness falls and it’s harder to see. Amazon think it’s easy but it’s not. You drive faster which means you are more likely to cause an accident or miss an address.”
Drivers who made mistakes, known as “concessions”, were named and shamed in group texts.
They could be threatened with the sack for logging into their Amazon phone app, which was used for deliveries, too soon.
One boss texted all drivers saying: “Ops manager is trying to find who has logged in so he can be fined and immediately dismissed. Somebody is getting fired this morning.”
UK laws mean drivers should not be on duty for more than 11 hours in any working day.
That includes time spent preparing the vehicle for work.
Unions labelled the business model a “dog-eat-dog exploitation of human beings”.
GMB Scotland senior organiser Louise Gilmour said: “Amazon are a multi-national goliath who have received millions of pounds in subsidies from the Scottish taxpayer yet they cannot even guarantee a secure wage or a contract of employment underpinned by the most basic of terms and conditions.”
Dr Anastasios Hadjisolomou, a lecturer in management work and organisation at the University of Stirling, added: “Amazon have both legal and moral obligations and it seems they are failing in both.”
A spokesman for Amazon said: “We are committed to ensuring that the people contracted by our independent delivery providers are fairly compensated.”