Extinction Rebellion activists blockaded an Amazon site on Black Friday © BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images
Extinction Rebellion activists blockaded an Amazon site on Black Friday © BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Ambulance calls to Amazon sites 'rocket' ahead of Black Friday

29 November 2021

Amazon warehouse workers are being “pushed beyond the limits of human endurance” as a result of the high pressure caused by Black Friday sales, according to a union.

The GMB said demand for ambulances at Amazon sites grew by 46% between October and November 2021 as the company rushed to meet increased demand for Black Friday and the Christmas period.

The union found workers were reporting injuries to fingers, limbs and backs caused by collisions with equipment and repetitive strains across 42 sites. 

The GMB obtained monthly data from four ambulance trusts in the North West, the East Midlands, London, and Wales covering 2016 to 2021. It found November was the worst month on average for ambulance callouts, with an average of 67, compared to 35 in January. In October there were 46 callouts.

Amazon denied the allegations, calling the figures “incomplete”.

Mick Rix, national officer at GMB Union, said: “While most people enjoy their Black Friday bargains, Amazon workers are being pushed beyond the limits of human endurance. 

“Each year, ambulance call outs to Amazon sites rocket as workers desperately race to hit their crushing targets. 

“The horrific evidence is here in black and white – ambulance crews are called out to Amazon sites almost 50% more in November.  

“Workers are breaking bones, being left in pain at the end of a shift and getting barred from work for raising Covid complaints.”  

Separately, an FOI request by the Daily Mirror to nine NHS ambulance trusts revealed 971 callouts were made to 24 Amazon warehouses between 1 January 2018 to 31 August 2021, equating to up to five a week.

The GMB called on the Health and Safety Executive to investigate  “inhumane working practices” at Amazon warehouses. 

Rix continued: “This company is a pandemic profiteer that can afford to do better – it’s time for Amazon to sit down with their workers’ union GMB and make Amazon a great, safe place to work.”

An Amazon spokesperson told Supply Management: “Once again, our critics are using incomplete information that’s without context and designed to intentionally mislead.”

The company claimed to have 40% fewer injuries on average compared to other transportation and warehousing businesses in the UK.

“The vast majority of ambulance callouts to our buildings are related to pre-existing conditions, not work-related incidents, and as a responsible employer we will always call an ambulance if someone requires medical attention.”

Figures from Barclays show UK Black Friday transactions were 23% higher this year than in 2020, and sales volumes increased by 2.4% compared to 2019. 

Analysts at PwC forecast that about £8.7bn will be spent, up from £7.8bn in 2019.

This is almost double the amount spent last year, when Black Friday was restricted to online sales due to lockdown restrictions across the UK. 

Amazon previously came under criticism after an investigation found millions of items at its Dunfermline warehouse in Scotland were being sent to recycling centres or landfill. 

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