An employee who started a fire at an Amazon warehouse which caused £8m of damage has been jailed. Police said Adris Ali felt he had been "disrespected" by a team leader on 4 November, so he lit a stack of papers and walked away. Ali, 22, of Walsall, previously admitted arson with intent or recklessness as to whether life was endangered. At Stafford Crown Court on Tuesday, he was jailed for 48 months. Overall, the blaze at the warehouse in Rugeley cost Amazon more than £8m, the court heard.
It's no secret that working in Amazon fulfillment is hardly what you'd call a dream job. The dismal working conditions in its warehouses have long been criticised by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and its own workers, despite Amazon's efforts to portray the opposite. SEE ALSO: New York Mayor blames Amazon: 'You have to be tough to make it here' To mimic what it's like to work in fulfillment, Australia's ABC News has created a news game called The Amazon Race, which is based on the experiences of people who've worked in the company's Melbourne warehouse. The game is based on the accounts of eight current and former workers, who told the news outlet they're at the behest of difficult pick targets and casual employment, meaning their shifts are determined on their performance. It's a fun, if depressing play, as you find yourself racing to pick products in order to hit targets and encountering difficult decisions, all to ensure you keep those shifts coming.
The future of Amazon's logistics network will undoubtedly involve artificial intelligence and robotics, but it's an open question at what point AI-powered machines will be doing a majority of the work. According to Scott Anderson, the company's director of robotics fulfillment, the point at which an Amazon warehouse is fully, end-to-end automated is at least 10 years away. Anderson's comments, reported today by Reuters, highlight the current pace of automation, even in environments that are ripe for robotic labor, like an Amazon warehouse. As it stands today, robots in the workforce are proficient mostly at specific, repeatable tasks for which they are precisely programmed. To get the robot to do something else takes expensive, time-consuming reprogramming.
My trip to Amazon's Staten Island center had its origins two months earlier. I was writing about a former worker named Justin Rashad Long, who contended that he had been fired for speaking out about working conditions there. Beyond the claim of retaliation, Mr. Long said laboring at Amazon had been a tremendous slog: Employees worked long shifts with few breaks. Managers held them to unreasonable goals. The time they spent waiting in line at metal detectors -- to discourage theft -- lengthened their day.