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21 Oct, 2021 09:03

Santa Bezos? Amazon is offering £3,000 to get people to work for them over Xmas – this isn't festive altruism, it’s a power grab

Santa Bezos? Amazon is offering £3,000 to get people to work for them over Xmas – this isn't festive altruism, it’s a power grab

Amazon handing ‘golden hellos’ to get people to work in their warehouses over Christmas is not ‘a victory for the workers’ – it is a bribe from Jeff Bezos to help him tighten his stranglehold on the market.

The Christmas countdown has begun, the trees are in the shops and I’ve spotted the mince pies on the shelves of the supermarkets already. Last year, at Christmas, we were in the middle of rising Covid cases and a harsh lockdown; if most of us are honest, it was pretty damn grim. This year families are wanting some long overdue Christmas cheer, and who can blame them?

However, the gaps on the supermarket shelves and the warnings from toy shops that every child (naughty or nice) may not be getting everything they want this year have already started. We already know Santa Claus cares less about poor children than rich children through the comparative sizes of the mountains of stuff under the tree each year. But fret not! Amazon, that behemoth that keeps on giving the working class jobs, is on hand, and this year, just like Buddy from Elf, they are going to save Christmas. 

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Amazon is currently on a recruitment drive, offering a ‘Golden Hello’ for any worker prepared to join them over the Christmas period. They are particularly targeting workers from other companies offering them between £1,000 and £3,000 to leave their current employers and work at Amazon. This is a good thing – you might think – workers get extra cash and there is no doubt that Amazon are now paying over the minimum wage for warehouse workers. Although working in an Amazon warehouse is a tough job, it’s hard work and you have to graft for every penny of that wage in conditions former workers have described as ‘like a sweat shop’

But there is nothing new here – I worked in a factory making tights for over ten years and worked my arse off for every penny; I was on piece work. Working class jobs are hard, dirty and low paid – that’s why they are working class jobs – but Amazon’s business model of flooding the market with cheap and easily available products using and investing in technology to always be ahead of the market is a destructive model, a locust model. They take and strip every resource in its path and, in doing so, close down any form of competition. Care homes, other retail outlets, warehouses, and the food industry sector have noted that it is difficult to attract and keep workers and Amazon advertising ‘Golden Hellos’ £3k is a lot of money to people in low paid jobs. But, as any capitalist will tell you, the market decides the price and isn’t it positive that working class people are getting a bit of a boon in their hourly rate?

I’m going to argue no – the hourly rate is £10 per hour in most Amazon warehouses for the lowest paid workers – £10 ph is still an extremely low wage, it’s not as low as £8 ph, but are we really in that race to the bottom where we give credit for poverty wages over starvation wages?

Our high streets are dying – and while I am always happy when there is one less global chain coffee shop on the high street than there was 2 years ago, I also realise that town centres and high streets have far more uses than just buying stuff. People meet, talk, create culture, keep local traditions alive and make new ones in town and city centres. Ordering online keeps us atomised and isolated at home in our own self-induced lockdown.

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And what happens when the workforce starts to level out? We know trade unions are not welcome in these mega corporations and that collective bargaining, workers committees are not happening. The mega-behemoths have all the power and we hand over ever more when we don’t challenge them.

What happens when technology shifts society again? If we rely on mega capitalism to set the agenda of pay and conditions, how our cities and culture are shaped and the rhythm of society – they will continue to shape it and control it in their own image. Imagine Amazon world – it’s not hard – a dystopia of lockdown, isolation and addiction to online shopping where Bezos is Santa Claus. Actually, perhaps you don’t even have to use your imagination to picture that one anymore. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.