The premise of the book is quite simple; spend three or four months in different parts of the city doing different low paid jobs, zero hour contracts and the so called gig economy. The places and jobs were; Rugeley for Amazon, Blackpool as a care worker, South Wales in a call centre and in London as an Uber driver.
We’ve all read the stories about how hard and how bad working in a huge distribution centre for Amazon is. On your feet all day, very short unpaid breaks, potential to be fired if you’re off sick and toilets that can be up to a 15 minute walk from where you’re currently working.
What was most interesting was how James delved deeper and chatted with many of the locals. The area around Rugeley voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. I’m very pro remain, so I’ve always struggled with why people would vote to leave. Rugeley is a down and out area, a place with high unemployment ever since the coal mines closed many years ago. When Amazon decided to come to the area, everyone was told that the good times were back. Well paid decent jobs for everyone. The reality was of course very different, and now very few locals work there. Instead it is mainly staffed by Eastern Europeans. If the cheap imported workers can no longer work in the UK, then companies like Amazon will have no choice but to pay a decent wage and improve conditions for local workers. I can see the argument, especially as there is no way a company like Amazon would or could move out of the UK.
This book is worth reading for this part alone.
The whole book made me think about how easy it is to order something on Amazon with one click, or when me and my wife jumped in an Uber when we stayed in London for a weekend. As the back cover states, an extraordinary and unsettling journey into the way modern Britons work. It also made me incredibly grateful that I work for a company that cares about it’s staff, looks after people, and pays a good wage.