Amazon’s new chief executive has an “historic opportunity” to improve the working culture at the internet giant, union officials have said, after Jeff Bezos announced that he was stepping down from the top post later this year
Bezos, who has held the role since he founded the company more than 25 years ago, will be replaced in the autumn by Andy Jassy, who runs Amazon’s cloud business. Bezos will then become the company’s executive chairman.
In a blog post to employees, Bezos said he plans to focus on new products and early initiatives being developed at Amazon. And he said he will have more time for side projects: his space exploration company Blue Origin; the newspaper he owns, The Washington Post; and his charities.
The GMB union said that while Amazon’s profits have soared, warehouse workers in the UK have been forced to suffered “inhumane” working conditions. The firm has thousands of staff at two large fulfilment centres in Scotland.
Laurence Turner, GMB research and policy officer, said: “A change in the face at the top isn’t enough – it is time for Amazon’s whole working culture to transform.
“While Amazon’s profits have soared, warehouse workers in the UK have been forced to suffered inhumane working conditions – breaking bones, being knocked unconscious and being taken away in ambulances in the company’s ruthless pursuit of cash.
“Amazon’s new CEO has a historic opportunity to draw a line under Jeff Bezos’s intense ideological hostility to unions, and instead make improving the lot of workers a top priority.”
A spokesperson for Amazon said: “Critics attack Amazon on many different topics and we have become a beacon for organisations wanting to raise awareness for their causes. These groups often deliberately create misleading stories to fit their agenda.
“The fact is we offer excellent pay, excellent benefits, excellent opportunities for career growth and, most importantly, all while working in a safe, modern work environment. We are proud that over 40,000 people have chosen Amazon as their employer in the UK and recommend Amazon as an excellent workplace to their family and friends.”
Launched in 1995, Amazon was a pioneer of fast and free shipping that won over millions of shoppers who used the site to buy nappies, TVs and just about anything.
Under Bezos, the firm also launched the first e-reader that gained mass acceptance, and its Echo listening device made voice assistants a more common sight in many living rooms.
As a child, Bezos was intrigued by computers and interested in building things, such as alarms he rigged in his parents’ home.
He earned a degree in electrical engineering and computer science at Princeton University, and then worked at several Wall Street companies.
Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Jeff Bezos has chosen to end his remarkable tenure as CEO on an unquestionable high.
“It’s hard to fathom Amazon’s scale, with its first ever $100 billion-plus quarter now under its belt. The group’s benefited massively from the pandemic, with swathes of the world locked out of physical shops.
“These heady numbers set a high bar for the future, so growth is set to temper next quarter, but, frankly, the results can’t be argued with.
“Crucially, Amazon has achieved sufficient scale to drive significant operating leverage, meaning profits are accelerating even faster than sales.”
Christopher Rossbach of asset management company J Stern & Co noted: “As Jeff Bezos moves on after this record breaking quarter, he has a very strong replacement in Andy Jassy.
“There is a very capable management team at Amazon, and whilst the company may lose some of the vision of the founder, Amazon is still very well placed for future growth disrupting more trillion dollar industries.”