Amazon is gearing up for what is expected to be its “biggest ever Black Friday” with an extra 1,500 seasonal workers hired at one of its Scottish sites in the run-up to Christmas.
The company credits itself with bringing the American tradition, where shoppers are given deals the day after Thanksgiving, to the UK in 2010, with it since making its offers available online for a week.
But the GMB union has said the “eye-watering profits” the company makes off the back of Black Friday mean it should pay its seasonal and permanent workers more.
Amazon said its employees receive “industry-leading pay” starting at £9.50 an hour and comprehensive benefits.
Speaking to the PA news agency ahead of Black Friday, Graham Allison, general manager at the Dunfermline site, said: “We’ve had a really good prep in the run-up to Black Friday so we’re pretty well prepared.
“It’s just got bigger and bigger but we’ve just got a bit more smoother as we’ve been more practised. A lot of time and effort has gone into prepping for this year.
“As the company’s grown, as we’ve offered more deals, really we’ve just got more practice to getting people in, getting the shipments out on time. We’re pretty confident.
“We’re pretty big on site, 1.5 million square feet, hiring more than 1,500 seasonal workers to help us cope with the run-up to Christmas. A lot of people coming in, got them trained, doing a good job and I’m sure we’ll be successful.
“We’ve got more than 1,200 (workers) all year round. The good thing for our experienced guys is they train, coach, help the new guys, welcome them in, just answer any questions and help them be successful.
“I think we’ve got very good at it over the years and our permanent team do a good job.”
He added: “I’ve been at Amazon for seven years. Customers have just become more and more confident ordering later and later because they know they get a good service, they know it’ll arrive before Christmas.”
Earlier this year, the company started offering public tours of its warehouses, with the Dunfermline site named its most visited in Europe for August – and second most popular in the world.
Mr Allison said: “I think it’s a sign of success. The word of mouth from people across Scotland’s been great.
“People come in, they’re impressed, very interested in the company and as a customer how we do it.”
However, unions have criticised the company’s TV, print and online promotional pushes inviting customers to “take a look” at its operations following years of negative coverage over warehouse conditions.
It came after reports found that an ambulance was called out to a UK Amazon warehouse once every two days last year, with staff reportedly breaking bones, collapsing and suffering serious falls.
GMB Scotland organiser Louise Gilmour said: “Amazon are well known as a mincing machine for human rights and employment rights.
“They will be generating eye-watering profits off the back of Black Friday, and the Christmas period and on the backs of their workforce – both permanent and seasonal.
“The employer has a charge list of exploitations the length of the Royal Mile, and this time of year in particular gives an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the practices of this employer.
“The billions of pounds of profits that Amazon generates means the consumer can have Black Friday, and Amazon at the same time can more than afford to pay the employees the living wage in decent terms and conditions many times over.”
An Amazon spokesman said: “Self-interested critics, particularly unions, have a vested interest in spreading misinformation about Amazon but the facts tell a different story.
“The truth is that Amazon already offers industry-leading pay, starting at £9.50 an hour, comprehensive benefits, as well as a safe, modern work environment.
“These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favour, when in fact we already offer the things they claim to be fighting for.
“You don’t have to take our word for it – or theirs. Come and see for yourself by registering for a tour at one of our fulfilment centres.”