Amazon offering £3,000 joining bonus to avoid labour shortages ahead of Christmas

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Workers prepare customer orders for dispatch as they work around goods stored inside an Amazon.co.uk fulfillment centre in Peterborough, England. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty

Amazon (AMZN) is offering joining bonuses of up to £3,000 ($4,119) in areas of the UK which are experiencing labour shortages, to attract workers ahead of the Christmas surge in demand.

Amazon is trying to recruit 20,000 temporary staff, as the UK struggles with labour shortages in many sectors including retail, hospitality and delivery.

Positions for "sortation operative" advertised on the Amazon jobs website offer bonuses of £3,000 to workers in Peterborough and Southampton.

Temporary recruits in Northampton, Leicester and Weybridge, Surrey are being offered £2,000. Signing-up bonuses of £1,500 are being offered for seasonal warehouse operative positions in Bristol, Swindon, Doncaster, and Edinburgh.

Amazon's biggest UK warehouse in Dunfermline in Fife, Scotland, is also offering signing up bonuses for £1,500. The 93,000 square-metre warehouse sorts and packs items for across Scotland and the north of England. Other sites are offering bonuses from £1,000 upwards.

Read more: Foreign hauliers to be allowed to make more UK deliveries

The Food and Drink Federation said there is a “battle for labour” as the UK heads towards the busy Christmas period as many food and hospitality firms will not be able to compete with the pay and bonuses now being offered by the e-commerce giant. This may affect Christmas deliveries and supplies and mean higher prices for consumers.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said that the bonuses being advertised by Amazon were a “knock-out blow” for smaller companies. 

“There isn’t a vast reservoir of British workers just waiting to be fought over. It’s incredibly difficult to get Christmas staff labour in many areas," he said.

“It will mean higher prices and fewer choices on shelves. Suppliers will almost certainly produce shorter runs of product and if they can, they will look at higher prices.”

An Amazon spokesperson said: “Amazon is hiring for seasonal positions across its UK network during the festive season. We are also currently offering a sign-on bonus at a number of locations to attract new permanent and seasonal associates.”

Read more: Christmas supply crunch: Why cargo ships are clogging up ports

Many larger companies have increased wages to attract and retain staff amid the current labour shortage. Jewellery firm Pandora (PNDORA.CO) announced a 6% increase in salaries for its 1,200 UK workers on Monday, adding over £1,000 to the annual pay packet of a full-time worker.

Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said: "We don't have the capacity to raise wages by those levels. We can't compete."

Retail experts have warned that Christmas food and toy shopping is likely to be hit by labour shortages and supply issues, including the lorry driver shortage that is hitting supply chains.

Global shipping bosses have warned that shoppers should plan ahead for Christmas amid delays at ports, with almost £1.5bn ($2bn) in goods hit by delays in the run-up to Christmas.

Cory Bros head Peter Wilson told the BBC last week that there may be less choice on the shelves because of the global supply chain slowdown, advising people to order items in a "timely fashion".

"I can say completely, categorically that supply chain will not fail and that goods will be on the shelves through Christmas," Wilson said on the BBC's Today programme. "There just may not be that absolute choice we're all used to."

Read more: UK firms struggling to recruit nears all-time high

Kate Martin, of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association, told The Guardian that there are likely to be fewer turkeys on supermarket shelves this year because of the shortage of workers to process them.

The British Toy & Hobby Association has warned that the toy sector faces fewer transport options and higher costs. The association said: “There are plenty of toys to choose from presently but, in common with other sectors’ advice, buying early — especially if buying for a Christmas or a birthday present — is prudent.”

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