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August 17, 2015

Jeff Bezos rebuts allegations Amazon is ‘soulless, dystopian workplace’

‘I don't think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive.’

By Jimmy Nicholls

Jeff Bezos rebutted allegations that Amazon ran a "soulless, dystopian workplace", following a New York Times report alleging hellish working practices at the ecommerce firm.

Writing in an internal memo since leaked to the press, the chief executive of the ecommerce giant claimed that the report did not describe the company he founded nor the staff that worked in it.

"I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market," he said.

"The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want."

The New York Times’ story painted a grim picture of life working at Amazon, alleging that staff were expected to work gruelling hours with little holiday, and that generous attitudes to criticism had created an aggressive, combative culture.

More shocking was the reported mistreatment of staff suffering long-term illness, caring for sick relatives or caring for children, with a miscarrying mother allegedly told by a boss that she had to attend a business trip the day after undergoing surgery.

"I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay," Bezos said in the memo. "I know I would leave such a company. "

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Whilst Amazon has been criticised for running warehouses as sweatshops, including one in Pennsylvanian where ambulances were hired in 2011 to take away workers collapsing in the heat, reports of poor conditions had not previously been directed at firm’s headquarters in Seattle.

Such conditions lie in stark contrast to those in many elite firms in Silicon Valley, with the likes of Adobe, Netflix and Microsoft having added longer parental recently. Other common benefits in the Valley include on-site gyms, barbers and video game arcades.

Following publication by the New York Times’, the story provoked backlash from lower-ranking Amazon staff, including Nick Ciubotariu, head of infrastructure development for Amazon’s search function.

"During my 18 months at Amazon, I’ve never worked a single weekend when I didn’t want to," he wrote in a critical post on LinkedIn.

"No one tells me to work nights. No one makes me answer emails at night. No one texts me to ask me why emails aren’t answered."

He did however confirm that Amazon "used to burn a lot of people to the ground", quoting an Amazon executive who added that the firm no longer operated in that manner.

The dispute comes as Amazon expands its offices in Seattle, with the final complex due for completion in 2018 expected to house 50,000 staff.

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