AMAZON warehouse workers unable to handle the strain of punishing quotas are regularly taken away by ambulance, according to an exposé revealing shocking working conditions at the e-commerce giant.

Alan Selby, a journalist with the Mirror newspaper in the UK, spent five weeks undercover at the sprawling warehouse at Tilbury, Essex, wearing a hidden camera which captured images of exhausted staff falling asleep on their feet.

"One colleague was taken to hospital by ambulance when they collapsed on the job, after struggling on despite feeling unwell," Selby said.

"Another ambulance was called after a girl suffered a panic attack when she was told compulsory overtime would mean her working up to 55 hours a week over Christmas.

"One of my colleagues told me, 'Everybody suffers here'. I pulled my hamstring but I just had to carry on. My friend spent two days off after she damaged her knee ligaments.'"

Under constant camera surveillance, workers - who are discouraged from sitting down during their 10-hour shifts - are required to pick an item for packing every 30 seconds, with their "units per hour" constantly displayed on a screen in front of them, Selby reports.

In the packing area, workers must pack 120 items per hour, with that figure soon to rise to 200 items. Supervisors regularly approach staff to remind them how they were performing. "As long as you're not bottom you've no need to worry ... for the time being," Selby says he was told.

He described how a whiteboard for staff comments displayed complaints about filthy toilets and short breaks. "Why are we not allowed to sit when it is quiet and not busy? We are human beings, not slaves and animals," one said.

In a statement, Amazon told the Mirror: "Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We are proud to have created thousands of permanent roles in our UK fulfilment centres in recent years.

"We offer great jobs and a positive environment with opportunities for growth. As with most companies, we expect a certain level of performance.

"Targets are based on previous performance achieved by our workers. Associates are evaluated over a long period of time as we know a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour."

Last year, a BBC journalist who went undercover for two weeks at an Amazon depot as a delivery, reported similarly gruelling conditions, describing how some drivers would urinate and even defecate in their vehicles to meet crushing deadlines.

Amazon, which was widely expected to launch its Australian operation last week after a "soft-launch" on Thursday, earlier this year confirmed its first local fulfilment centre in Melbourne's Dandenong South.

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