UK legislators are putting pressure on Amazon to clarify comments made by a senior executive on warehouse conditions.

The advocacy group Foxglove has claimed Brian Palmer, the head of European policy, had presented “misleading” information regarding the exploitation of warehouse employees.

Mr. Palmer testified before the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee on Tuesday, November 15.

Amazon strongly denies he intentionally misled the committee.

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The question is whether Amazon uses tracking technology to track worker productivity in its UK warehouses, which the online retailer has repeatedly denied.

In response to a question about workplace surveillance, Palmer stated that it was used to monitor goods rather than people.

He said: “They are not primarily or even secondarily to identify under-performers.

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“Performance-related feedback is really focused on safety.”

He told MPs Amazon continues to “perform better than the industry” on employee safety and warehouse workers are able to access their performance targets through “online tools that are made available to every single employee”.

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Foxglove wrote to the committee in December raising concerns about Mr. Palmer’s comments.

The letter, seen by Reuters, said: “Brian Palmer’s evidence was materially misleading in several respects,” the letter said, refuting his statements on the use of tracking tools, Amazon’s track record on safety and the transparency of workers’ performance targets.

“It cited legal filings related to U.S. court cases where regulators say safety risks arose because of productivity pressure, and testimony from workers at five warehouses in the UK.

An Amazon spokesperson said the online giant used CCTV cameras “to ensure the safety of employees and security of products”.

“To suggest that the use of these standard business practices amount to surveillance of employees is wrong.”

Members of the GMB union at the retailer’s warehouse in Coventry are set to strike for the first time at the end of January in a pay dispute.

Palmer declined Reuters’ request for comment.

Labour MP and committee chairman Darren Jones have now written to Amazon to address a number of points in the hearing.

He wrote: “If the Committee isn’t satisfied with the quality of the answers we will call Amazon to give further public evidence.”

Amazon now has until Tuesday, January 24, to respond to MPs.

Source:  Retail Gazette

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