RETAIL giant Amazon has been accused of “locking up” lorry drivers for hours at its Scottish distribution centre.
A Lanarkshire-based courier firm claims its staff are locked in a tiny room without furniture or a fire escape for up to four hours.
Courier Connections says the “appalling” security measures imposed at the online firm’s massive warehouse in Dunfermline,Fife, may be breaking the law.
Today (Thurs) fire chiefs confirmed that they would be visit the site to check their risk assessment procedures.
Amazon insisted that locking up drivers was an essential health and safety measure at the site, which opened a month ago.
Larry Mathieson, transport manager for the Bellshill-based Courier Connections, said: “Surely this practice is illegal.
“All drivers delivering into this site must hand in the keys to their vehicles, along with relevant paperwork for the delivery.
“Once this is done the drivers are then locked up in a room which contains no chairs or tables, but does contain a toilet.
“Each time we have delivered into this site our drivers are held for between one-and-a-half hours to four hours and are not allowed out of the locked room.
“This cannot be legal – this is the 21st century, for goodness sake.”
The firm, which specialises in palletised freight, make daily deliveries to the site atDunfermline’s Eastern Expansion (DEX).
Mr Mathieson added: “When we complained about the locking-up of our drivers we were told this is a security measure, citing the fact that they could not have drivers hanging around the site as they produced high-value merchandise.
“We do not only deliver to Amazon, but also to other sites. The freight we carry for other deliveries is also of high value.
“When we are on-site in Dunfermline, our drivers are not allowed near the vehicles, yet the Amazon employees are allowed into delivery vehicles. Where are our security rights?
“Since we have started delivering into this establishment we are appalled at the security practice, which takes place within this depot.”
The firm’s general manager, Steven Hamilton, said the room was only 16ft by 16ft.
He said: “This has been going on since the new plant opened in Dunfermline.
“If there was a fire I don’t know how they would cover that in terms of Health and Safety, or if someone took ill while they were in there.
“The mobile phone signal is also very poor.”
Fife Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that they would be sending an inspector to the Amazon depot following the revelations.
A spokesman said: “Somebody will visit the premises. Every building should have had a risk assessment carried out and we need to see their risk assessment of the situation.”
Scottish human rights lawyer John Scott said: “It’s outrageous and unacceptable. There’s potential for the practice to be attacked on a number of grounds. I don’t think it would even need to be on human rights grounds. There are health and safety implications.”
Pat Glancey, Road Haulage Association manager for Scotland and Northern Irelandsaid: “We think it’s unacceptable that drivers should be locked up for any length of time with only facilities for a toilet in this day and age. The drivers are human beings. They should be treated with dignity and respect.”
He added: “It’s not right, it’s against any human relations you want to have with anyone else. But we have to do deliveries there. They are a powerful buying force, which will probably see them out of this.”
Amazon today defended the practice, saying a statement: ‘Fulfilment Centres are industrialised environments where we have processes and systems in place to ensure high standards and safety for all employees, suppliers and delivery partners.
“Our delivery docks are particularly busy areas where mechanical handling equipment is in extensive use and, to ensure the safety of all drivers, only Amazon trained personnel are permitted into these areas.’
Amazon, which is based in Seattle Washington, started as an online bookstore in 1995.
In 2001 Amazon was attacked by its workers at aMilton Keynessite over poor pay and poor working conditions.
Staff claimed employees were expected to meet demanding targets, with “pickers” being expected to select three items a minute from the warehouse shelves and a “packer” to make up 2.5 orders a minute.
Claims were also made that managers took handwriting samples from staff after a note criticising the working conditions was sent out with an order by a disgruntled worker.
The company has now started selling a diverse range of valuable pocket-sized pieces of technology, such as MP3 players, worth hundreds of pounds each.
The firm has recently developed an e-book reader, the Amazon Kindle.