What is real-time employee monitoring

Amazon monitors employees in real time at every turn

Hardly any company has benefited as much from the corona crisis as Amazon. The share of the US group has been on the rise since March, and the retailer scores massively in online mail order compared to the competition. But as has been reported repeatedly in the past, this is often at the expense of the workforce. According to a report by Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), employees are monitored in real time in order to measure performance and thus check whether they are productive enough.

Scan work steps

For this, employees have to scan their work steps in parallel - this is also recorded so that supervisors have immediate access to the information and can also see whether the respective warehouse employee is reaching a certain average speed. If someone is not on duty for several minutes, this is also displayed. In such cases, superiors intervene - a foreman told ARD anonymously that employees would then be confronted on site to check whether they were chatting too much or using the toilet too often, for example. Amazon explained to the "Tagesschau" that it helps employees to learn new processes in this way, and that there is "assistance" if necessary.

Constant comparison with colleagues

However, this also results in an automated comparison of employees and their performance - those who do too little or less than their colleagues can expect to be dismissed. This is decided by software. Fast employees would stay, slow ones would have to leave - which increases the pressure to be quick because the average rate keeps increasing. A former employee of a dispatch warehouse told the "Tagesschau" that she was admonished when her rate fell - and asked where she was at certain times. The decline in performance later led to termination.

MEPs fear surveillance

Earlier this month, MEPs issued an open letter expressing their concerns about the group's surveillance measures. The main concern was the possibility of spying on trade unionists, employees and politicians. The trigger was a job advertisement by the company, with which it was looking for "analysts" who should monitor the dangers for Amazon, including the formation of trade unions or "hostile politicians". In the advertisement, trade unions and politicians were treated in the same categories as similar job offers for analysts on risks such as hate groups and terrorism.

Prevent unions at all costs

At the same time, an internal paper of the company was leaked describing plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to merge and other "dangers" for the company, so the wording, to be analyzed and visualized worldwide with the help of algorithm-driven software. In April, however, it became known that the company in the United States is doing risk assessments for every store at its Whole Foods grocery chain - in relation to the "danger" of unionization. One of the factors is the diversity of the employees. And in the past, automated monitoring with hand-held scanners and computers that track performance has been massively criticized. (red, 10/25/2020)