When Amazon sent its Australian website live in December, the global e-commerce giant promised it would bring millions of low-price products to consumers and create thousands of local jobs.
“We hope to earn the trust and the custom of Australian shoppers in the years to come,” its country manager, Rocco Braeuniger, said at the time.
By that stage Amazon – which this week followed Apple to become history’s second-ever $US1 trillion company – had already quietly brought something else new and unique to our shores.
In Melbourne’s outer south-east, Amazon had opened its first local “fulfilment centre”. This massive shed is where thousands of products wait to be plucked off shelves, packed into boxes and mailed to customers by workers.
They are almost all casual employees engaged not by Amazon, but through a third-party labour hire firm Adecco.
Amazon’s efficiency and use of cutting-edge technology has empowered consumers around the world, giving them access to a virtually unlimited number of products at low prices, delivered to their door with the click of a mouse.
Some of Amazon’s Australian workers have now described how the same technological precision that made Amazon founder Jeff Bezos the richest person on the planet (he is worth $US167 billion, according to Forbes) is also used to monitor and analyse each second of their working day.
Combined with insecure casual employment, the workers who spoke to Fairfax Media said they felt under unsustainable pressure to meet performance targets or they will lose their jobs.
“It’s a hellscape,” said one of the workers, who spoke directly to Fairfax Media but declined to be identified for fear of losing their current jobs or damaging future work opportunities with labour hire firms.