The latest phase of Amazon’s expansion in the UK will see the online retailer open a new distribution centre in the Midlands, creating 400 jobs.
The company said its plans for the new self-styled fulfilment centre at Rugby would open up a variety of positions including engineers and HR and IT specialists.
It announced the investment as a report by Centre for Cities warned that the North and the Midlands were most at risk of losing jobs to automation and globalisation.
The think tank calculated that one in five jobs in British cities was likely to be displaced by 2030 as technology evolved.
Amazon currently operates a network of 16 UK fulfilment centres – sprawling warehouses, in the main, which handle orders on behalf of customers and within its marketplace.
They have attracted criticism in the past amid allegations of tough working conditions, including exhausting performance targets for those picking items for delivery.
Amazon, which has rejected any suggestion of poor practice, said the work on offer in Rugby was attractive.
Its director of UK customer fulfilment, Stefano Perego, said: “We are delighted to expand our operations in the Midlands where we already have a dedicated workforce of more than 2,500 people at fulfilment centres in Rugeley, Coalville and Daventry,”
“We are thrilled to begin recruitment for 400 new permanent roles in Rugby with competitive wages and comprehensive benefits starting on day one.”
Amazon said of its pay package: “The pay rate for permanent Amazon employees increases over their first two years of employment, when all employees earn £8.35 an hour and above.
“All permanent Amazon fulfilment centre employees are given stock grants, which over the last five years were on average equal to £1,000 or more per year per person.
“Employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package, including private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, subsidised meals and an employee discount, which combined are worth more than £700 annually, as well as a company pension plan.”
Clearly, Amazon is still hiring humans to carry out the picking process but the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said its own data showed the tide was turning for retail jobs – mainly driven, at this stage, by challenges in the economy.
Its chief executive, Helen Dickinson, responded to the Centre for Cities report by saying: “This new report points to the growing impact of automation on the retail industry.
“The BRC’s latest employment data, which reported a net reduction in jobs, echoes this trend and reflects the pressures felt from the diverging costs of labour versus technology and the subsequent boost of investment in the latter.
“The report also rightly acknowledges the disproportionate impact on economically deprived and vulnerable communities, which is compounded by the burden of property taxation also hitting these areas hardest.
“The cost of this can be seen in more empty shops on the high street.”