October 2015 Mass Exodus

At the beginning of 2014 peak, Amazon SDF8 deposited ten hours extra UPT (unpaid time off) in every employee’s account. At the time, I assumed it did this because so many employees were falling critically low on UPT, that it was afraid of losing too many employees. I don’t know. It might have just been a bonus to compensate for so much overtime. (Of course, UPT costs the company nothing other than missed, unpaid hours. In fact, the company recoups money, in the form of unpaid VCP.)

As I have indicated, UPT hours are distributed in blocks of twenty hours on the first day of each quarter. Often, on this first day, or during the first week of these unpaid time off distributions, many employees take advantage of this new allotment to leave for an hour, hours, or a day. Often, this many employees using UPT will trigger mandatory overtime later in the week. It creates a vicious circle. The employee depletes his UPT to get some much needed time off, only to be scheduled to work on his day off later that week or the next.

The fourth quarter 2015 UPT was distributed on October first. I knew a lot of people took off using unpaid time off that week, and then, mandatory overtime was called for virtually every shift. But I didn’t know exactly how many until I read the following exchange on the Voice of Associate board:

From the VOA board 10/10/15: “Why can’t we get 10 hours UPT like last year for working so much overtime? It’s not fair to us, don’t you think?”

The company response from Matt on 10/11/15: “Last year the FC [fulfillment center] went into MOT [mandatory overtime] in mid-August and did not come off until January. Since Prime Day the most MOT for any shift has been 3 instances. The MOT called for this week is directly related to the 25,000 hours of UPT used for the first week of October. Please do not expect to receive any further UPT this year and plan accordingly.”

SDF8 might have had roughly three thousand employees at the time. If so, this makes an average of 8.3 UPT hours used per employee during the first week of October 2015. This means, on average, each SDF8 employee used 41.5 percent of his allotment of UPT for the next three months in the first week.

The above event is telling. Employees are desperate to get out of the facility, and only a little more desperate to keep their jobs. I thought the October mass exodus was funny. Management seemed pretty miffed about it. (Tier One employees did, contrary to what Matt wrote in October, receive 10 more hours of UPT at the end of 2015 as part of the peak incentives, saving the company a considerable amount on the December [payable January] VCP payout, the heaviest payout of the year.)

The company sometimes strategically offers extra UPT during peak and Prime Day periods, as an ostensible employee incentive, in order to keep attendance high, knowing that when employees use the UPT within the same month, it will save the company from making large VCP payouts the following month that might have been accumulated during these high employee-hour periods. For instance, for Prime Day season 2016, the company offered an extra 2 hours UPT (unpaid time off) for each week of perfect attendance June 19th through July 30th. A single hour usage of this UPT by the end of July, would cost an employee a 2% VCP (variable compensation pay) payout of his gross pay for July which will have included a considerable amount of mandatory overtime pay. Two instances of UPT usage will cost him a 4% VCP payout, his entire attendance VCP.