Anger At Amazon Rising In Europe (NASDAQ:AMZN)

amazonThe attitude towards Amazon in Europe has cooled considerably in recent years. The company is facing difficulties in several European countries. There is continuing labor strife in Germany and France is putting restrictions on the company’s aggressive discounting. In Britain, a February story in The Financial Times compared Amazon’s warehouses to a “slave camp.”

Adam Littler, a BBC reporter, worked briefly at Amazon’s Swansea warehouse to research the company’s practices for his report. His report on his experiences, broadcast on the show “Panorama,” showed him racing to meet the demands of his hand-held scanner, only having a few moments to find each product that appeared.

Mr. Littler said of his ten-and-a-half-hour night shift, “I managed to walk or hobble nearly 11 miles, just short of 11 miles last night. I’m absolutely shattered.” He continued on to say, “We are machines, we are robots, we plug our scanner in, we’re holding it, but we might as well be plugging it into ourselves.”

Michael Marmot, a labor expert the BBC identified as “one of Britain’s leading experts on stress at work,” commented in an interview that with “the characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness.” Mr. Marmot added, “There are always going to be menial jobs, but we can make them better or worse. And it seems to me the demands of efficiency at the cost of individual’s health and well-being — it’s got to be balanced.”

This is very different from the reaction to the company on Amazon’s home turf in the United States. In the U.S., the company is routinely hailed as a jobs machine, employing tens of thousands of workers at its warehouses around the country and hiring many more for the lucrative holiday shopping season.

In July, President Obama called Amazon “a great example of what’s possible.” While talking about an Amazon program that provides hourly workers with tuition assistance, Mr. Obama said, “That’s the kind of approach that we need from America’s businesses.” He continued on to say, “I look at this amazing facility and you guys, you don’t miss a beat.”