LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
21 August 2015
This Is The Amazon You Know

“If we were to become aware of anything like that, we would take swift action to
correct it.” Erm. Really? Well we are aware of the horrendous conditions we’d
endure if we worked for Amazon. Naturally Amazon denies all. “This isn’t the
Amazon We Know”. Right. But it is the one we know.

So before you hit that button to accept Amazon
Prime to receive your protein
pancakes, in-wash scent booster beads, portable karaoke machine in pink,
electric string trimmer in one day to satisfy your need for convenience and
immediate gratification, consider the workers and be more than happy you’re
not one of them at zero-hour contracts, 80-hour weeks, horrendous working
conditions, unfair dismissals, weeping at (and under – oh dear that is serious)
their desks, tagging staff to monitor workers’ performance (yikes) and timing
their toilet breaks (only applied to temporary associates says Amazon...oh, OK),
the Christmas season must be jolly, using fear and intimidation to control staff
and - staff encouraged to report on each other...goodness gracious me...or
really, WTF!

Amazon said employees were treated with “dignity and respect...We are proud
of providing a safe and positive workplace.” Yawn. So much for the 5,900 word
Dickensian exposé by
The New York Times. CEO Jeff Bezos says the story
does not describe the Amazon he knows and that "our tolerance for any such
lack of empathy needs to be zero”. Not terribly credible that, Jeff. Evidently
conditions are worse in the US. I feel compelled to include a few more details.

In a Pennsylvania warehouse ambulances waited for staff who had collapsed in
high 30Cs temperatures. I wonder who paid the bill for resuscitation. Air-
conditioning was installed only after (only after that is) the abuse was reported to
the press. All that sweat everywhere. Oh dear. After a staff member had “the
most devastating event of my life” – a stillborn birth – Amazon told her she was
being put on a performance improvement plan. A ‘better’ pregnancy? Really.

Let’s think back to 2001 when the
Guardian reported on a series of complaints
about wages and conditions in the company...2008 when the
Times of London
revealed the bathroom-break-permission rule...2011 when the sweltering
temperatures and the point-based disciplinary system were reported...2013
when Channel 4 News found GPS tags were fitted to staff and talking to
colleagues could lead to dismissal. So, where was Jeff?

There have also been claims that staff is given a job for 12 weeks then sacked,
only to be re-employed, to avoid getting the same rights as full-time workers.
Warehouse workers walk up to 27 miles during a shift, “workers are encouraged
to tear apart one another's ideas in meetings, toil long and late and even send
secret feedback to one another's managers”, family holidays were cut short to
meet the unrealistic expectations of senior staff, workers’ children’s birthday
parties cancelled, oh it does go on and on and on and.... Billionaire Jeff Bezos
was accused of treating warehouse serfs “like cattle” – not even serfs. Did I say
Dickensian? More gulag.

Amazon's UK website sales rose by 14% to £5.3bn last year, but the company
only booked £680m of revenue through its UK accounts. At the same time,
Amazon paid just £11.9m in tax to UK authorities, while receiving more handouts
in government grants - totalling £1.8m last year. Do I hear the word ‘boycott’ yet?

Just to put more perspective on it all: “The online giant’s appalling grammar
skills” were exposed. An example: “These Principles work hard, just like we do...
It’s just one of the things that makes Amazon peculiar.” I swear on Amazon I am
not making this up. Peculiar? Principles upper case? And all those books
available on Amazon: dictionaries, thesauruses, etymologies....

Amazon offers ‘testimonials’ you can read on line as well as guided tours of
Amazon’s Rugeley Fulfilment (Fulfilment...ha) Centre. Feeling manipulated? You
surely should.


No, It’s Not a Phase

YouGov surveys are saying gay is not gay...straight is not straight. Clearly led
by female celebs who refuse to be defined, have allowed anyone to be free to
choose...or not to choose their sexual preference. Yes, you know Cara, Kristen,
Miley.

A spokesman from YouGov said that the survey “indicates an increasingly open-
minded approach to sexuality”. Kristen told Nylon, “I think in three or four years,
there are going to be a whole lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to
figure out if you’re gay or straight. It’s like, just do your thing.” According to their
recent poll, nearly half of young people in the UK do not consider themselves
either 100 per cent exclusively straight or gay. A relief now that the ‘Mum, I have
something to tell you’ conversation won’t be obligatory.


Kate Bows Out

Ex-Waity’s ‘disappearing’ act...operative word possibly ‘act’? Ex-W’s
nonappearance for significant social events clearly penned in her royal diary
has been duly and dutifully noted. Apparently Ex-W doesn’t do weddings, unless
it’s hers. Indeed.

Ex-W’s using the royal prerogative: don’t complain, don’t explain. OK. You know
it really is another Kate’s mantra: Kate Moss who does neither.

Kate was expected to accompany Wills at the weekend in South Devon (note
only a six-hour drive – not Provence) for the wedding of socialite Daisy Dickson
and an old pal of the groom, estate agent Bear Maclean. However Wills, was
forced to attend with perpetual-publicity-seeking, Pippa. What fun...really?

"They were due to sit at the top table. Kate had been expected to attend. No one
knows why. Everyone was talking about it over breakfast the next morning. They
stayed on the next day and night, too, attending lunch in the marquee together.
The plan was for everyone to go and do a river estuary swim afterwards.” Ah,
Pippa in her element.

The hosts appeared to have been informed so late that Ex-W’s name was still on
the seating plan at the reception.

Here’s what that press is reporting: “The couple attended dozens of weddings in
the run-up to their own nuptials in 2011, but Kate went to none in the two years
afterwards. William has been to at least five weddings on his own. Before they
married, Kate rarely missed a chance to be by the Prince’s side at major events.
When the Prince was an usher at the wedding of his close friend Tom van
Straubenzee in 2013, Kate was seen on a shopping trip. In her absence,
William is reported to have knocked part of his tooth out at the reception.” So
classy that Ex-W.

Clearly there’s a pattern here isn’t it? Ex-W blanked the christening of Zara
Phillips's daughter, Mia, December last year...the Zara who had been named
godmother to Prince George. Oh dear, oh dear. Not very nice, was it? And more
recently, Wills had to go it alone at the wedding of his close friend Tom van
Straubenzee. It seems that Ex-W has (yet) another plan.

Oh let’s take a guess here: not the centre of attention regardless of constant hair
flipping...so ‘above’ it all with her future royal position secured now – in possibly
40-50 years...her five-hour hair styling wasn’t time enough...Wills who?...Carole
couldn’t come up with a strategy to out-shine the bride?...taking care of the kids
– you know that’s not true...not a big enough audience...on-line shopping –
possibly...they are all his friends as she doesn’t have any? Well, yes. Perhaps
it's a combination. Certainly not entitlement or arrogance or imperiousness.

Those who are close to the couple say ‘The ‘Middleton Rules’ have contributed.
These are the commands that Wills adamantly demanded in order that he live a
‘middle-class-Middleton life in total privacy. Hmmm. Well, perhaps we should
stop paying for their excessive, extravagant ‘middle class’ life. Just saying....

The press asks: “To put it bluntly: why is he partying with Pippa and not helping
out his wife at home?” Ah ha. His new job as a helicopter pilot with the East
Anglian Air Ambulance service involves working ‘four days on, four days off’ –
away from the perfect middle class family.

Sources claim that Kate has been ‘discouraging’ William from accepting too
many social engagements and even hints of trouble in paradise. Do you reckon?

Ranting and Raving or I’m Losing the Will to Live: see
Amazon above


The Fun Bits:

The Bemusement Park

No tickets available on line until Tuesday, the web site crashed on opening,
queuing for hours, mud, encountering unresponsive, depressed staff...oh it’s
only a sinister Banksy theme park a la Disney, a dark version that is.

A 2.5 acre park, “deeply unsettling...bizarrely entertaining” Dismaland in faded
seaside resort Weston-super-Mare. Banksy best described it as:”a festival of
art, amusements and entry-level anarchism.” What’s not to like...love even?

Twisted fairground rides, immersive experiences, a ruinous Disney-style castle,  
the Grim Reaper driving a dodgem as Stayin' Alive plays, on a wall Mickey
(Mouse of course) gestures to a stencilled reminder about life: Welcome to
Dismaland...LIFE  isn’t always a Fairytale, a 2014 Banksy. Recyling – good.
Three art galleries featuring more than 50 artists from 17 countries (Jenny
Holzer, Damian Hurst included), and an exit where you can buy a souvenir
photo – you with Cinderella/Diana dead in a gruesome horse-drawn Disney
carriage accident. Now who wouldn’t want that?

From Banksy himself: “The fairytale is over, the world is sleepwalking towards
climate catastrophe, maybe all that escapism will have to wait... I guess you’d
say it’s a theme park whose big theme is – theme parks should have bigger
themes.” Ha. Hurry; you have only five weeks.


Sweet

A packet of Mars bars pays off. Its value increased from 75p to more than
£14,000. How you ask? Possibly you’ve already read about the miracle. OK. Not
quite a miracle, but clearly a good deed worthy of quasi-sainthood.

Two months ago, after Tory benefits sanctions left Louisa Sewell with no money
for food, as they do, she shoplifted a pack of four Mars bars, the cheapest food
in the shop. There’s the 75p for the packet. She hadn’t eaten in days. OK.
Here's where you might question her choice. Surely there must have been
another option. But then, she was possibly at sixes and seven, delirious, weak
and delirious with hunger...let’s assume so. The Kidderminster Heron Foods
convenience store’s CCTV camera caught her pinching the chocolate bars.

Louisa was fined £328.75 by the magistrates’ court and fined over 438 times the
value of her theft. Here’s how: £73 for the theft, £150 in court charges, £85 for
prosecution costs, a £20 victim surcharge. The magistrate said it was
unacceptable for her to steal “just for being hungry”. Better to simply die from
starvation. New Tory regulations require convicted adult offenders to pay
towards the cost of running the criminal justice system...naturally.

One in six of all jobseekers have had their payments temporarily stopped. The
Department for Work and Pensions says that one in five benefit-related deaths
have involved sanctions. Ah, another Tory success.

Reverend Stuart Campbell, who lives over 90 miles away in Bath, spotted
Louisa's plight online, and he decided to begin a crowdfunding campaign to
raise money to pay her fine. His aim was to raise £500 – a bit extra for more
Mars bars, but in four days, he had raised nearly £14,000.

“For someone to have decided to go ahead with the prosecution is grotesque...

We can’t fix every injustice in the hideous, heartless society the UK has
become… We can do something, even if it’s only a gesture...I can’t begin to
explain what any of those people are thinking.” I think we can – and it isn’t pretty.
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