Amazon.com's holiday sweatshop horror

Freshly laid off? Things could be worse — like, for example, if you were working as a temporary employee at an Amazon warehouse.

The Times of London reports that workers in Amazon.com's UK fulfillment centers risk firing if they take sick days, even with a doctor's permission, and must work mandatory seven-day weeks. The pay, through a temporary-laborer firm, is $10.40 an hour — but employees must pay $13 a day for a bus to Amazon's inconveniently located warehouse.

The pace, as well, is backbreaking: 140 boxes packed an hour. All so we can get Xboxes underneath our tree! (A Times reporter took a job undercover to learn all this firsthand.)

The best part? Amazon.com executives don't deny any of it. Allan Lyall, VP of European operations for Amazon, told the Times (emphasis added):

Every single member of the Amazon.co.uk workforce, be that a temporary picker in Marston Gate, a permanent packer in Gourock, a customer service representative in Cork or a product manager in our Slough head office, is currently working flat out to ensure that our millions of customers receive the products that they have ordered on time this Christmas.... Demand for permanent roles from our temporary employees is at such a high level that we no longer need to recruit externally for permanent positions. Indeed, we have already seen well over 100 temporary employees become permanent this year alone. During 2008, we have taken on over 4,000 temporary fulfilment centre associates in the UK and are benefitting from the lowest level of employees leaving the company that we have experienced over all our 11 Christmases.

Got that? In case it wasn't clear, what Lyall is basically saying is that the economy is so bad that Amazon.com employees — many of them Eastern European immigrants who have recently lost jobs in, say, the now-dead housebuilding industry — gladly take the abuse..

(Photo via Attus Apparel)