On the edge of Rugeley stands Amazon’s largest distribution centre in Britain. Life for the workers who trudge around the 800,000 sq ft warehouse is not as bad as it was for the men who once worked in the pits of the Staffordshire coalfield, but that is not saying much. They must carry satnavs, which direct their movements round the stacks and flash warnings from managers to stop dawdling or chatting with colleagues. Britain being the way it is, they have no job security.
Trade unionists call the Amazon shed a “slave camp”. But whatever arguments they have with Amazon’s management, one point should be beyond dispute – Rugeley is in Britain. British customers send Amazon their money. British workers package their goods and send them off in vans along roads built and maintained by the British taxpayer. If workers steal – and before they can go home or visit the canteen, they must walk through airport-style security scanners to prove they have not – Amazon will call on the taxpayer-funded police to arrest them and the taxpayer-funded criminal justice system to prosecute them. Admittedly, Amazon’s buyers who supply the stock are based in Slough rather than Rugeley. But the last time I looked Slough was in Britain too.