Amazon, the online global supermarket is offering more so as for its workers to work extra hours as the demand for its services rise with the lock down in most global cities. Leveraging on its delivery innovation at a time of mass self-isolation or quarantine, the supermarket is further raising its incentive for workers.
Additional to the £2 extra it grants each worker for every hour, overtime (more than 40 hours a week) will now double the hourly rate. That means that ordinary workers could earn between £30,000 – £40,000 a month, much more than what the average graduate gets in the UK, for example. How long this lasts is unclear but it seems it lasts as long as the Coronavirus siege lasts and life is on restriction.
But it is not such a problem free advantage for which Amazon might be paying no price, typical of capitalism. It seems it won’t be long before it faces or has to deal with criticisms over the health implications for the workers involved.
One dimension is the vulnerability of the number of workers involved continuing to converge. A protest piece in Counterpunch (https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/03/24/putting-profits-before-workers-safety-inside-amazon-during-the-covid-19-crisis/) is already illustrative of this.
The second dimension is the problem of checking workers who are sick but would not want to miss working because of the big incentives.
In the end, a ‘win here/lose there’ scenario is facing the giant of digital capitalism.
In a March 18th, 2020 story on the totally unplanned good fortune of Amazon at a time of global lock down due to viral threat, Intervention reported as follows:
Amazon, the online global supermarket has, in a totally unplanned manner, emerged the biggest beneficiary of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is such that it is paying its employees £2 an hour extra. And this is lasting till April 30th, 2020 when by its projection, the world might have overcome the threat from the rampaging virus.
This makes Amazon one of the few companies to benefit from the virus, a situation which speaks to the many contradictions which capitalism is full of: while some companies are the losers, others are emerging as big winners.
The demand for Amazon products has been up by about 25% as it is a major source by which people get whatever they want from their self or enforced isolation. Prices of goods like detol have gone up more than six fold. Detol wipes which sold about £2.50 before the virus is now £14.99.
Those who understand the process say that since people are scared to do physical shopping in supermarkets because of the virus, they order online. Thus the huge spike in demand, given the high degree of digitization of the company, the automated nature of its operations, especially with the use of robots in the operations. Also contributing to its positioning to benefit from the emergency is its own transport system stretching from drones, airplanes, trucks, vans, motorcycles and more, all of which contribute to speeding up delivery, most times within 24 hours.
As thus a virtual global supermarket, said a student of the political economy of digital capitalism, selling everything and through which other companies sell, it is no longer about books but the biggest online retail company in the world, second perhaps only to Jack Ma’s Alibaba which is, however, more concentrated in Asia.
Worth more than a trillion dollars and with its CEO, Jeff Bozos, the richest person in the world, it is unarguably the leader of the five digital key players that go by the acronym FAANGs. These are Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google.
They are not only the destination of choice for new graduates in business administration and digital engineering, they pay better. Now, Amazon is stepping up the attraction to it by adding something extra to the wage. Although the £2 per hour applies to only workers, its pay structure is on the high side for new and high achieving graduates, particularly those on its pathways and/or are being tracked for senior positions.
Only God can, therefore, calculate how high it will raise the stakes in business, what with its physical stores without cashiers. All that the shopper requires is download an Amazon app on his or her phone before shopping. All items in a shop are already fitted with censors to respond positively when the shopper picks an item and adds it to his or her shopping cart but negatively when put back. In the end, the shopper walks out of the store as if there is nothing to pay. The billing follows later and it will be deducted from the shopper’s account.
The totality of the ensemble of creativity and innovation is whether digital capitalism has not complicated the Socialist revolution the more. How do people organise against a virtual process with capacity to anticipate and blunt the rough edges of what is exploitation in Socialist discourse, including calling technology to the help of delivery?
According to the BBC, Amazon employs 27,000 people in the UK and has 17 warehouses. That is just the UK alone, one of the three places the online retail giant is saying it would increase pay for its staff. The other two mentioned by the BBC story are the US and Europe. There is no mention of Africa where except the virus is either evading detection or hasn’t got in because of Africa’s relative disconnection from the world, there isn’t much of lock down yet. The third hypothesis on that has been ruined by the virus havoc in hot countries such as Philippines.