The Amazon worker: paid £18,000 to shift 250 items an hour
(Aaron Callaway is 24 and works four nights a week alongside robots in the retailer’s warehouse)
f I’ve learned anything from doing this job, it’s that money can’t replace time. I work four nights a week in an Amazon warehouse near my home in Southend-on-Sea. It’s quite a cold place to work and, apart from two half-hour meal breaks, I’m on my feet for 10 and a half hours. I scan the items the trucks bring in from distributors and place them into the right cart for the robots to take to the correct place in the warehouse.
I have to put away each item in 15 seconds or less, and get through 250 in an hour, or I’ll be given a warning by a manager. Stepping away from my station to, say, get a drink of water can have a big impact on my performance.
During my half-hour breaks I rush downstairs to have something to eat. It’s stressful – and it definitely affects my health, standing up for hours on end. I worry I may pass out if I don’t rest during my meal breaks. I’ve lost a lot of weight since I started.
I live with my parents, and pay them £50 a week for rent and food. I also spend £50 a week travelling to work. Apart from that, I don’t spend much on anything. That means two-thirds of the money I take home every month – about £1,000 – just sits in my bank account.
It’s weird, but it’s like money’s become almost meaningless. Before I took this job, I used to spend money doing things with friends, but now I work such anti-social hours, it’s difficult to meet up. I feel like I’ve lost who I was.
I end up spending most of my time off trying to sleep. The shifts I have to work never change, so I don’t like to reset my sleeping pattern when I’m not working.
During the week I get so focused on work, it’s hard to switch off. I’ll lie in bed for hours, trying to drift off. Sometimes, I only get four hours’ sleep between shifts.
My hobbies are painting Japanese gundam models and playing computer games online, so occasionally I’ll spend about £50 on a new model kit or a new video game. But I haven’t wanted, recently, to do those things. Plus, seeing all the different items people buy from Amazon actually puts me off buying stuff. After you’ve handled something 200 times, somehow you no longer want it. When Jamie Oliver brings a new bestseller out, I curse him.
Because I’m asleep when my parents get home from work and vice versa, I don’t get to see them much during the week. I’ve never been a social butterfly but recently there have been moments when, suddenly, I need more interaction with other people. The only time I speak to a human being at work is when a manager comes to check my progress or when a problem solver comes to fix something. My main interaction is with the robots.
I applied for the job through the jobcentre. I’ve thought about quitting, but I can’t leave of my own accord. If I did, I’d be sanctioned by the jobcentre and lose my entitlement for benefits and support for six months. I don’t have much choice but to carry on working there. Unless I can find a new job, I’m locked into place.
As told to Donna Ferguson
Tags : amazon, travail, travailleur
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