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News for nerds

Online retail giant Amazon is to offer one-off payments of up to £3,000 in order to attract staff in UK regions where there is high demand for labour.

The online retailer is hiring for 20,000 positions across its UK network during the festive season.

Fears over worker shortages have already prompted other firms to warn of problems in the run-up to Christmas.

Amazon began offering a £1,000 signing-on bonus to recruit permanent staff in some regions in August.

As first reported in the Guardian, the company’s latest recruitment drive has included a £3,000 bonus for full-time workers at sites such as its Exeter warehouse, while in Peterborough, new temporary and permanent workers are offered a sign-up bonus of £1,500.

Pay for the temporary roles starts at a minimum of £10 per hour, rising to £11.10 in some parts of the UK.

Over the past few months, the shortage of workers in a range of sectors has led to delivery delays and waste.

According to the latest official figures, the number of job vacancies hit 1.1 million between July and September – the highest level since records began in 2001.

The largest increase in vacancies was in the retail sector and for motor mechanics, the Office for National Statistics said.

Fashion chain Next and supermarket Iceland are among firms warning of potential pre-Christmas disruption because of staff shortages.

Some overseas workers have left the UK during the pandemic and also following Brexit. The furlough scheme, which ends this month, has also kept some workers out of the jobs market.

‘Harder’ for small firms
Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said he was “concerned by the level of wage inflation and bonus payments being instigated by large companies such as Amazon”.

Mr Goodacre explained that finding seasonal workers was “proving difficult” at the “most important time of the year” for many small businesses.

“This kind of action from Amazon will make it harder still for smaller companies who simply cannot afford such wages.”

Mick Rix, national officer for the trade union GMB, said: “Amazon has been a pandemic profiteer – raking in astronomical sums during the Covid crisis.

“It is only right that they listen to the union representatives of their workforce and ensure that Amazon workers share in the vast profits that the company are making.”

In September, the firm announced it had paid £492m in direct taxation last year as its sales rose 50% to £20.63bn amid a Covid-driven surge in demand.

In the past Amazon has faced accusations of poor working conditions both in the UK and the US, where it is the country’s second largest employer.

Speaking of the new bonuses, one warehouse worker who has worked at an Amazon site for several years told BBC News: “It wouldn’t be the first time the incentives have been offered.

“It leaves workers who have been there for years feeling rather undervalued and underappreciated, as they are training people who are making more money than them, which definitely ticks off the longer term employees.”

In March, the Unite union launched a whistleblowing hotline for Amazon workers in the UK. It also called for Amazon to allow British workers to unionise and to have a greater share of the firm’s profits.