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Article Claims Amazon Uses Automation to Track … and Fire … Employees

Amazon has long been at the forefront of developing and using new technologies that have revolutionized business processes. Amazon is all about using those technological innovations to drive efficiency and productivity. It was technological advances, in fact, that allowed it to redefine retail, offering extensive online listings of products and deliver packages to customers in days, often at low to no shipping costs.

That’s why the recently revealed allegations that Amazon uses technology to automate the firing of employees was so chilling. It’s the latest in a series of allegations that Amazon employees endure awful working conditions, leading to massive turnover and mental health issues for those working there.

Is Amazon Really Using Technology to Monitor and Fire Workers?

A recent article on The Verge website and elsewhere asserts that documents show that Amazon fired hundreds of employees at a Baltimore fulfillment facility between August 2017 and September 2018 (Amazon put the number at 300 out of its 2,500-person workforce there).

The documents were submitted by Amazon’s own attorneys in response to a claim brought against the company before the National Labor Relations Board.

How Does the Automation System Work?

According to the documents The Verge obtained, Amazon’s technology tracks employee productivity, including if the worker is taking too much “time off task.” The system can then issue warnings and termination notices. Those documents also list nearly 900 names of fired employees. All the names were fired for either “productivity” or “productivity_trend,” an indication of a series of inefficiencies.

Has Amazon Responded?

Yes. Amazon indicated that the 900-name list was an overly broad listing that including other performance issues and was correcting that issue with the NLRB. It said that supervisors could override the automated process. In a later statement, the company disputed the press accounts, noting, “It is absolutely not true that employees are terminated through an automatic system. We would never dismiss an employee without first ensuring that they had received our fullest support, including dedicated coaching to help them improve and additional training. ”

What Does This Mean for Amazon?

The revelations come at the same time Amazon has announced next-day delivery for Amazon Prime members. That means increasing pressure on warehouse workers to be efficient and productive in fulfilling orders. Amazon has been working to build its own logistics operation, creating franchise opportunities for Prime deliveries. Such delivery modes would mean Amazon is no longer dependent on UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service.

“The biggest supply chain hang-up that Amazon faces is not with its trucks or deliveries, it’s with the people that fill the boxes, get them labeled and putting them on the truck,” noted Luis Alvarez, owner of Alvarez Technology Group, in a recent interview. “Now this is going to add even more pressure — having a logistics or tracking program that automatically fires you for low performance. Couple that with an expectation of higher performance as these same-day or next-day deliveries become the norm, it’s going to be a recipe for disaster for a lot of workers.”

Knowing when and how to use technology is critical. Alvarez Technology Group offers technology consulting services that help business leaders use technology strategically for growth. To learn more, schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation today.

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