Amazon has responded to claims from the GMB union that it is failing in its legal duties when making staff redundant.
GMB had accused the internet giant of failing to follow proper procedures when making redundancies from its UK fulfilment centres, including its warehouse operations in Swansea and Milton Keynes.
However, in a statement to The Bookseller, an Amazon spokesperson said that the company is not making staff redundant, but instead has in place a system called "The Offer", which provides a cash bonus to staff members who are "ready for a new career".
Elly Baker, GMB lead officer for Amazon, said: "Amazon is bypassing the law when it comes to redundancies and getting rid of staff. At both Swansea and Milton Keynes members of staff have been verbally asked to consider voluntarily applying to leave the company for a lump sum of up to £3,500 which is less than the statutory amount due in many cases. The company have been asked and refused to put this offer in writing. This is in spite of the fact that members of staff who applied and were accepted to go found that the amount they were paid was less than the sums promised."
Baker added: "This is not how a redundancy situation should be dealt with in the UK. Amazon should submit a HR1 notice to the Secretary of State and then undertake a proper consultation exercise before selecting any staff to go."
Amazon said that, rather than making employees redundant, it was actually still adding roles in the UK. A spokesperson said: "We have added well over 2,000 new permanent employees in the UK over the past two years, and we are still hiring. Customers are best served by an engaged, positive workforce and that is our focus. We created the 'The Offer' to provide employees who are ready for a new career with an opportunity to smooth their transition, whilst rewarding their service to customers. 'The Offer’ is not a redundancy programme. We are happy to say very few of our employees chose to voluntarily resign under the programme, choosing instead to stay and continue to do great work for customers."
According to the law, if an employer proposes making 20 or more roles redundant at one location in the space of 90 days, they are obliged to consult with a trade union or elected employee representatives, begin consultations at least 30 days before dismissals take place, and notify the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills at least 30 or 45 days before dismissals occur.
Yesterday (4th March) also saw the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upholding a complaint against an Amazon promotion for its Prime membership service, which offers unlimited free delivery and access to services such as video streaming for a yearly fee of £79.
The complaint centred on a letter Amazon sent to customers with Amazon accounts which included a plastic card which offered a "30-Day Free Trial". Small print at the bottom of the letter stated that: "Paid subscription starts automatically after free trial unless cancelled."
According to the ASA, there were six complaints, which claimed the promotion was misleading because: "It did not make sufficiently clear that a paid subscription would automatically start if not cancelled during the free trial", and "It did not state what the cost of the subscription would be".
Amazon responded that the advert was not currently appearing, and that it believed that: "the ad made it clear that a paid subscription to Amazon Prime would automatically start if membership to Amazon Prime was not cancelled during the free trial." However, the ASA has ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, and that fact the paid subscription begins automatically should be included in the main body of the advert, along with information of the financial commitment consumers would make if they did not cancel.
Recently, columnist Giles Coren complained on Twitter about being unknowingly charged for Amazon Prime after signing up for a free trial.
Meanwhile as of last month, the online retailer has begun offering tours of one of its fulfilment centres in Rugeley, Staffordshire. The site began offering tours last month for friends and family of Amazon associates, and is now open for bookings from the public, operating on the fourth Tuesday of every month. Tours of the site last for an hour, and are open to groups of up to 30 people, who must be over six years of age.
Amazon.co.uk m.d. Christopher North, quoted in the Staffordshire Newsletter, said: "We are now proud to invite our customers to see first-hand how our world-class employees and advanced technology in our fulfilment centres come together to make this magic happen."