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Amazon accused of dumping casuals in middle of the night

Britain’s biggest online retailer has been criticised for cutting short the shifts of casual staff in the middle of the night.

Some workers have had to wait at the giant Amazon warehouse near Gourock, in Inverclyde, until public transport resumes in the morning, even though they are not being paid.

Amazon has admitted cutting short the shifts of agency staff without any notice at the warehouse.

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The retailer, which opened its warehouse in 2004, hires an army of temporary workers, many foreign, in the run-up to every Christmas.

Inverclyde Advice and Employment Rights Centre yesterday warned that many such casual employees were facing intolerable – but perfectly legal – conditions.

Jim McCourt, the centre’s manager, said he believed such practices were “immoral and obscene” after his group was contacted by workers.

He said: “To stop a worker’s wages part-way through a shift is unacceptable.

“Some workers having their wages stopped during the nightshift have no option but to sit on site until public transport starts.

“We ask that they commit to ensuring that those in Inverclyde and beyond are paid for a full shift when they are called into work. This company can well afford it.”

Mr McCourt said some of the workers bussed to Amazon had been forced to take up the post as a condition of keeping their Jobseeker’s allowance.

He added: “This is the archetypal poverty trap. These workers appear at this site in the expectation that they will be paid a full shift. Their hourly rate is only just above the minimum wage. We urge Amazon to make a public commitment to honour this.”

Amazon yesterday failed to respond to calls from The Herald asking for a comment on its practices.

But the general manager of its Gourock facility, Sandy Davidson, confirmed shifts were being cut short in a letter to Mr McCourt.

He wrote: “On a small number of occasions, we have asked our agencies to release some agency workers during a shift due to fluctuations in customer demand and therefore workload.

“All temporary agency workers are paid for the hours that they work and the agencies that employ them do set up transport arrangements for those that need it and ask the workers to remain in the building until such transport is available to them.”

West of Scotland nationalist MSP Stuart McMillan said: “If this type of practice is going on, I am not very happy about it at all.

“In this day and age it highlights how lax the employment legislation actually is in the UK.

“I am extremely disappointed that a local employer, albeit a multinational, has treated people in this way.

“I would have hoped the would have more compassion in how they deal with their staff.”

Amazon was this weekend bracing itself for one of its busiest periods of the year as online shoppers make their final orders for Christmas.

Last night it went offline for a brief period with a group of “hacktivists” suggesting they may be responsible.

Amazon.co.uk was unreachable for a period last night, while the company’s French, German and Italian domains were also experiencing some severe problems .

Anonymous, a group of hackers who support the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, has claimed responsibility for a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

The first week of December is the retailer’s most frantic time of the year – with December 6 dubbed “Mega Monday”.

Amazon expected to make 23 sales a second. The company employs hundreds of “pickers” at Gourock, who can walk miles a day up and down the aisles of its warehouse finding goods that its customers have ordered.

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