Amazon’s Pay Increase Plays Down Their Problems


Photo By Scott Lewis

Amazon employees often work for hours at a time, and skip their breaks in order to fulfill productivity expectations. Photo courtesy of Scott Lewis.

By Shreya Selvaraju, Reporter

Amazon recently announced a plan to increase its pay for warehouse and transportation workers to an average of $18 an hour. Accompanying the increase, Amazon plans to hire 125,000 new employees by the end of the year. The change was spurred by the rapidly changing job market. As companies compete for employees, Amazon needs to separate itself as an employer from its competitors.

Amazon made its base pay $15 back in 2018. While their base pay will remain the same, starting pay, which varies by location, now ranges up to $22.50. This pulls the average salary up from $17 in May. While any rise in wages is an objectively good change, Amazon’s refusal to better accommodate its existing employees and their safety isn’t. Amazon’s treatment of its employees has always been a point of contention. While the company offers its employees relatively high pay and many benefits, they face a lot of pressure and are easily replaced. About 3 percent of Amazon’s employees leave each week, which means that Amazon replaces the number of employees that make up its entire workforce every eight months. The constant cycling through employees highlights a larger problem with Amazon’s work environment and how it values its employees.

A substantial factor of why Amazon loses so many employees despite their employee benefits, which include vision and dental insurance, is the demanding workload. For warehouse and transportation workers who are impacted by the raise, not meeting a goal one day could result in immediate termination. These employees work in Amazon’s fulfillment centers and are expected to meet productivity quotas. Many workers refrain from taking breaks to ensure that they can meet these quotas. To keep track of employees and their progress, Amazon uses an automated system that notes when an employee spends too much “time off task,” a metric of how long an employee takes from one scan to the next. When an employee spends too much“time off task” they are warned and subsequently fired.  The ever-present threat of losing your job is one that plagues many employees and only contributes to a toxic work environment. Amazon workers that don’t meet what is expected of them, even if just for one day, cannot use the benefits the company so proudly publicizes.

Amazon’s easy dismissal of employees makes it seem like they don’t value them. Treating employees like they’re disposable isn’t a sustainable approach and deters possible employees who don’t think a higher paycheck is worth the stress of such a volatile work environment. Amazon’s strict treatment of its employees and high standards hinder the goal of its pay increases. The combined stress of knowing that an easy slip-up could get you fired with an unsafe work environment is not conducive to a great work environment.

Despite Amazon striving to be “Earth’s safest place to work,” it’s far from it. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Amazon’s employee injury rate is almost double the warehouse industry standard. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on this, Amazon continues to increase employee pay rates. Their concerns should be directed toward the existing problems they deal with rather than trying to incentivize an extremely taxing and dangerous job.

In addition, the increase hasn’t changed very much for employees. The increases in certain areas accommodate for a high cost of living but don’t change anything for Amazon warehouse workers as a whole. The rising pay rate has often coincided with a loss of benefits. When Amazon moved its base pay rate to $15 back in 2018, they removed stock options and holiday bonuses, meaning that employees actually made less money than they used to. While the raise certainly accommodates a changing economy and booming need for workers, Amazon should consider making changes that don’t just sound good but create the workplace that it claims to.

If Amazon created a work environment that’s safer and better caters to employees, they would have employees that last longer and less need for more labor. This would help them stand out from competitors and better accomplish their goal of creating a good reputation as an employer, attracting more employees.

Throwing money at your problems does not make them go away, and Amazon’s solution to the issue of its employment environment shows a lack of accountability, one that could lead to more significant issues in the future. While the pay increase is a good step, Amazon should be more focused on creating a better employee work environment that meets its competition.

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