The government is promising reform as global companies like Amazon can pay less tax than traditional British retailers, ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills reports
Amazon said it will offer permanent jobs with "excellent pay, excellent benefits" as it creates more than 10,000 roles across the country, amid reports that warehouse staff were on zero-hour contracts.
An investigation by ITV News, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Mirror in February found agency workers were not being given nor paid the promised 20 hours a week. Temporary workers told of shifts being cancelled last minute and never hearing from agencies again.
Amazon has maintained it does not offer zero-hour contracts.
The retail giant is expanding its workforce as it plans to open new centres in Hinckley, Doncaster, Dartford, Gateshead and Swindon. More jobs will come from expanding its delivery station network, and new roles in offices, web services and operations networks.
UK Amazon boss John Boumphrey says the company will offer permanent jobs with 'excellent pay, excellent benefits'
Announcing the 10,000 new jobs, UK Amazon boss John Boumphrey told ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills: "The jobs we offer are great permanent jobs. We offer excellent pay, excellent benefits and great opportunities for employees to develop, whether in Amazon or indeed to develop in a way that will take them outside of Amazon as well."
Asked about Unite's claims of bullying, mandatory overtime, intense surveillance and breakneck production targets, Mr Boumphrey said in the last six months the feedback he received from various sites has been "overwhelmingly a positive experience".
He continued: "But what I say to people is, come and see for yourselves. We just reopened live virtual tours."
Prompted further on the claims, he said: "The feedback we get is overwhelmingly positive. In fact, 94% would recommend working at Amazon to a friend but that doesn't mean that there isn't more we can do."
'We can confirm that there are no agency staff on zero-hour contracts,' Amazon said
Asked if problems with zero-hour contracts had been resolved, the UK Amazon boss said: "Our agency terms are really clear that we do not offer zero-hour contracts. The majority of our temporary associates are employed by agencies. They come in for either part-time or full-time work and a lot of those then go on to take on full time roles."
He added: "We can confirm that there are no agency staff on zero-hour contracts."
Amazon has said it is also investing £10 million in training programmes.
'We contributed £1.1 billion in tax last year'
Defending the company for claims it doesn't pay its fair share of tax despite booming sales, Mr Boumphrey said: "We paid a total of £1.1 billion.
"We’re investing very heavily. We’re an e-commerce, which is a very competitive, low-margin business. We’re investing heavily and that’s why today we’re here announcing a further 10,000 jobs."
Asked if he thought the current tax system gives online, multi-national retailers an advantage over high street retailers, Mr Boumphrey said the company believes "helping to sort out the global tax system will be really positive for the UK and for international businesses".
Is Kwasi Kwarteng in favour of a global minimum corporation tax rate?
Asked about the possibility of a global minimum corporation tax rate, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "I think that individual countries have the right to set rates. We've historically had very low rates and I think that has helped the British economy."
Prompted further, he said: "I think having individual sovereign countries deciding their tax rates is a very good idea."
Is Amazon responsible for dying high streets?
So, is Amazon responsible for many of the empty shops on high streets? Mr Boumphrey replied: "No, there isn't a part of me that thinks that. As I said, the pandemic has been so difficult for businesses of different sizes. A lot of these challenges were happening a long time ago. I think retail has increasingly been multi-channel."
He continued: "It (the pandemic) has also offered a lot of opportunity and we've been proud in the way that we've helped businesses go digital, come online."And could those holes be filled by Amazon? "We have opened stores a number of grocery stores in London. Never say never."