Connect with us


Workers urge Amazon boss to restore share schemes

By Rowland Manthorpe, technology correspondent

Dozens of UK Amazon warehouse workers have sent emails directly to Jeff Bezos urging him to restore their employee share and incentive schemes, which they say have been cut in order to fund a promised pay rise.

Sky News has seen some of the emails, which mainly come from longer-term workers, who say they have been hit hard by the changes.

In one, a worker at a fulfilment centre in Dunfermline warns Mr Bezos that the move "may receive major backlash and some disappointed workers".

The email continues: "We take great pleasure in receiving our shares as that is what makes Amazon unique and for people that have children it is a delight to have that extra bonus."

In another, a worker who says they have worked for seven years in Amazon's fulfilment centre at Doncaster, tells Mr Bezos: "It's great looking forward to receiving our shares/share on a yearly basis… It pays for a well-earned holiday which I wouldn't be able to pay for without."

Another worker, who says they have worked for Amazon for nine years, voices anger, writing to Bezos: "You say you listened to us! But when did we get to vote on the change of pay?"

However, the dominant note among the 41 emails is disappointment.

As one worker puts it in their email: "I would hope you have the time to recognise that people are upset… We respect the values of the company. And do our best every day in hope of recognition."

Sky News has not revealed the names of the workers, some of whom say their public statements could create difficulties

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 18: founder and CEO Jeff Bezos presents the company's first smartphone, the Fire Phone, on June 18, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. The much-anticipated device is available for pre-order today and is available exclusively with AT&T service. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
Image: Jeff Bezos is Amazon's chief executive

Amazon, which has faced heavy criticism over its treatment of its lowest-paid workers, announced on 2 October that it would increase its minimum hourly pay in the US and UK.

Minimum pay for permanent and temporary staff in the UK outside London was raised by £1.50 an hour to £9.50. In the capital it was raised by £2.20 to £10.50.

However, the GMB union accused the firm of subsidising the pay rise by cutting a share scheme for warehouse workers, which entitles them to one share – currently worth ($1,885) £1,435 – for every year they work at Amazon, with an additional share once every five years.

After two years, according to the GMB, workers can cash in the shares – known as restricted stock units, or RSUs – for free.

In a blogpost announcing the change, Amazon said that it was phasing out RSUs because "we've heard from our hourly fulfillment and customer service employees that they prefer the predictability and immediacy of cash".

The firm told Sky News: "The significant increase in hourly cash wages more than compensates for the phase out of RSUs.

"We can confirm that all hourly Operations and Customer Service employees will see an increase in their total compensation as a result of this announcement. In addition, the compensation will be more immediate and predictable."

The email campaign has been conducted through Organise, a website for workplace campaigns set up in 2017.

A petition launched on the site immediately after Amazon's announcement gathered around 1200 signatures, according to Organise.

The signatories then voted to send emails to Bezos, rather than taking the more confrontational step of delivering their petition to Amazon headquarters or passing it to the media.

"This issue affects a certain subset of loyal workers, who use a very different language and have very different feeling towards it than workers who are temporary," said Organise lead campaigner Usman Mohammed.

"Amazon workers keep telling us that no-one at Amazon asked them about removing the shares, it's why they voted to take their message directly to Jeff Bezos."

More from Science & Tech

  • Why Canary Wharf might soon become as quirky as Shoreditch

  • Uber drivers stage 24 hour strike over employee rights

  • Facebook faces backlash over £7.4m UK tax bill on sales of £1.3bn

  • French minister asks Google to blur all prison images after helicopter jailbreak

  • Judge approves treatment for 'mad cow-like' Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

  • Police investigations being hindered by 'outdated' IT systems, officers warn

The Amazon CEO's email address is widely available, and Bezos is known to read even customer complaints, sometimes forwarding them to subordinates with a single question mark.

A manager receiving one of these notorious emails has to drop everything to respond as quickly as possible to the request – with no excuses accepted.

Continue Reading


Chunk of moon fetches $600,000 at auction

A chunk of the moon that fell to Earth as a lunar meteorite has fetched more than $600,000 (£458,997) at auction.

The 5.5kg (12lb) lump, affectionately known as The Moon Puzzle, is comprised of six fragments that fit together.

RR Auction in Boston, Massachusetts, announced on Friday that the set had sold for $612,500 (£468,559).

The winning bid came from a representative working with the Tam Chuc Pagoda complex in Ha Nam Province, Vietnam.

RR Auctions had predicted it would sell for around $500,000 (£382,497).

Sign here to force leaders to debate on TV

Sign here to force leaders to debate on TV

Thousands have signed our petition for an Independent Leaders' Commission to organise election debates – have you?

The meteorite, which fell roughly 250,000 miles to Earth, was found in a remote area of Mauritania in northwest Africa in 2017.

It is thought to be one of the most significant lunar meteorites ever found because of its large size.

The piece also has "partial fusion crust" caused by the tremendous heat that would have seared the rock as it fell.

RR Auctions states on its website that the meteorite is classified as NWA 11789, and is unofficially known as "Buagaba".

More from UK

  • LIVE: Brexit march 'to be biggest rally in a decade'

  • Two men charged with murder of Ian Tomlin in Battersea

  • Feline daft? Big cat on the loose 'is not a panther'

  • Fifth of councils see recycling cost rise after China ban

  • Lift off! Spacecraft's five billion mile journey to Mercury

  • Small earthquakes detected near Lancashire fracking zone

The auction house says the rock was likely blasted off the surface of our moon by a different meteorite.

Earlier in 2018, scientists confirmed that water exists in the darkest and coldest parts of the moon's poles.

Continue Reading


Remain v Leave: Scale of Facebook ad war revealed

By Rowland Manthorpe, technology correspondent

Anti-Brexit groups are running at least twice as many adverts as major Leave campaigns on Facebook – and possibly up to 59 times more, Sky News can reveal.

The two largest Remain campaigns, People's Vote and Best for Britain, are currently running 16 Facebook ads on their pages.

By contrast, Leave Means Leave, the group backed by Nigel Farage, is running five ads. Leave.EU is only running two.

A data set of Facebook ads over the last two-and-a-half months, seen exclusively by Sky News, presents an even starker contrast.

In this period, the Best For Britain and People's Vote campaigns ran 177 ads, whereas the two largest pro-Brexit campaigns ran only three.

Fake news inquiry targeted by 'sophisticated' campaign

Fake news inquiry targeted by 'sophisticated' campaign

Ahead of the Remain-supporting March for the Future taking place in London on Saturday, People's Vote and Best for Britain aimed ads at different geographic regions of the UK – including Swansea, Edinburgh, Hackney, Liverpool and Stoke.

It also targeted ads at supporters of Premiership football clubs, including West Ham United and Manchester City, telling fans how much their club had lost out on in the transfer window as a result of the weak pound.

Remain groups are out-advertising leave
Image: Remain groups are out-advertising Leave

Tom Baldwin, director of communications for People's Vote, told Sky News that the campaign had also targeted Facebook users in the West Midlands after the boss of Jaguar Land Rover said that Brexit could put tens of thousands of jobs at risk.

Baldwin said the People's Vote campaign had increased the number of ads it was putting out in recent weeks, adding: "We've just really started doing this, and we've managed to reach around two or three million people, that's the kind of impressions that we're getting."

The adverts are targeting MPs as well as voters
Image: The adverts are targeting MPs as well as voters

The historic Facebook ads come from a start-up called Who Targets Me, which uses a free browser plug-in to collect Facebook ads from around 10,000 different news feeds. It pulls in between 7,000 and 8,000 ads a day, many of which are related to Brexit.

"There's a lot more advertising coming from the Remain side," said Sam Jeffers, one of the project's founders. "We're not seeing a lot of stuff on the Leave side at the moment.

"Maybe that's confidence on their side, that things are going the way they want it to be, or maybe those campaigns haven't really got going yet."

More from Science & Tech

  • Chunk of the moon fetches more than $600,000 at auction

  • Lift off! Spacecraft's five billion mile journey to Mercury

  • Fake news inquiry MPs' targeted by 'sophisticated' campaign

  • Facebook hires Nick Clegg as head of global affairs and communications

  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sues Ecuador for 'violating his rights'

  • Ebay sues Amazon over 'orchestrated campaign to poach sellers'

Sign here to force leaders to debate on TV

Sign here to force leaders to debate on TV

Thousands have signed our petition for an Independent Leaders' Commission to organise election debates – have you?

During the 2016 referendum, the official Vote Leave campaign spent more than £2.7m on Facebook ads, using data taken from social media and other sources to target specific groups with tailored — often wildly exaggerated — messages.

Baldwin denied he was repeating the same practice: "We're trying to reach people in a straightforward way using existing Facebook tools."

Continue Reading


UK-built spacecraft begins journey to Mercury

European and Japanese space agencies have launched their first mission to Mercury from its space port in Kourou, French Guiana.

The British-built BepiColombo took off aboard an Ariane 5 rocket at about 2.45am UK time on Saturday to begin its seven-year, 5 billion mile (8.5 billion km) journey to the closest planet to the Sun.

Stephane Israel, chief executive of rocket-maker Arianespace, confirmed the launch had been a success.

"Arianespace is delighted to announce that BepiColombo has been separated as planned on the targeted escape orbit and is now on its way towards Mercury," he said.

The £1.4bn mission is complicated by the intense gravity pull of the sun, forcing the spacecraft to take an elliptical path that involves two fly-bys of Venus and six of Mercury itself.

The two BepiColombo orbiters
Image: The two BepiColombo orbiters

BepiColombo comprises of two orbiters: one European and the other Japanese, which will circle the planet while mapping and probing its surface and enveloping magnetic field.

Scientists hope to unravel some of Mercury's mysteries, such as the reason for its over-large iron core, its spectacular volcanic vents, and why the planet's dark side emits x-rays.

They hope the answers they get will shed new light on the origins and evolution of the solar system.

Speaking after the launch, Professor Gunther Hasinger, the European Space Agency's director of science, said: "This is truly breathtaking. We have today written history.

"We have sent the most complex stack of spacecraft that ever have been conceived into space, and to a very long journey to an environment which is truly out of the Earth; truly out of this world."

Pic:  NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington
Image: Scientists hope the mission will unravel some of Mercury's many mysteries. Pic: NASA

The Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), carrying the two orbiters, was built in Stevenage by the Defence and Space division of aerospace company Airbus.

Key elements of ESAs Mercury Planet Orbiter were also assembled by Airbus in the UK.

A key feature of BepiColombo is that it is the first interplanetary mission to employ advanced electric ion propulsion technology.

Four Star Trek-style "impulse engines", two firing at a time, will emit beams of electrically charged, or "ionised", xenon gas.

More from ESA

  • Countdown to Europe's 'nail-biting' first mission to Mercury

  • UK-built spacecraft BepiColombo set to explore Mercury's mysteries

  • UK-built satellite 'to improve weather forecasts'

  • Competition to name new Mars rover: How about Marsy McMarsface?

  • Weightlessness makes human brain more powerful in certain tasks – study

They will be used not to accelerate the craft but to act as a brake against the sun's enormous gravity.

More to follow…

Continue Reading


Yes, you really can work yourself to death


Stress and sleeplessness are surprisingly lethal.

Tech companies and gig economy platforms love to boast sleepless nights and 100 hour weeks. But there’s a danger to working too much.

Continue Reading


Fake news enquiry targeted by ‘sophisticated’ campaign

By Rowland Manthorpe, technology correspondent

Members of the parliamentary enquiry into fake news have been targeted by an anonymous group which may have spent £250,000 spreading pro-Brexit messages on Facebook.

Damian Collins and Paul Farrelly were among the MPs whose constituents were targeted by the campaign to "chuck Chequers", which is estimated to have reached between 10 and 11 million people on Facebook.

The campaign was run by a site calling itself "Mainstream Network", an apparently legitimate news website, running pro-Brexit articles on business and politics.

Its Facebook adverts urged voters to email their MP asking them to "chuck Chequers". Once the user clicked on the ad, it generated a pre-addressed email to the MP.

Sign to force leaders to debate on TV

Sign to force leaders to debate on TV

More than 40,000 people have signed our petition – have you?

Mainstream Network has no named organisation, UK address, group or individuals connected with it, and this information cannot be found.

Mr Collins chairs the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee, which released details of the campaign.

He said: "Here we have an example of a clearly sophisticated organisation spending lots of money on a political campaign, and we have absolutely no idea who is behind it.

Mike Harris, chief executive of 89up, the digital agency which passed details of the campaign to the DCMS committee, said: "We looked at the WordPress code, we looked at the digital fingerprint.

"They have done a very very thorough job of hiding."

Facebook will have the names attached to the credit cards used to pay for adverts. The social media firm confirmed that it would respond to requests from law enforcement agencies or the Electoral Commission.

In addition to campaigns, Mainstream Network also promoted its own content. Its 20 most popular articles have had more than 140,000 social media engagements, with the vast majority coming on Facebook. Given its lack of natural appeal, this suggests it has spent significant money to promote its news items.

Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Image: Damian Collins is chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee

Since Mainstream Network first appeared on 15 February, 89up estimates that it could have spent as much as £257,000 on Facebook ads – a rough guess based on a cost of 75p per Facebook share.

By contrast, UKIP has declared just £114,000 since the beginning of 2018.

On Tuesday, Facebook announced new requirements obliging political advertisers to confirm their identity and location, and to disclose who is paying for ads. These will come into force from 7 November.

"We know we can't prevent election interference alone and offering more ad transparency allows journalists, researchers and other interested parties to raise important questions," the firm said in a statement.

Mr Harris said that as soon as Facebook's new requirements were announced, Mainstream Network took down its 70 ads on Facebook.

Misinformation has become a serious concern for social networks
Image: Misinformation has become a serious concern for social networks

Other MPs targeted by the campaign included Labour's Gloria de Piero and the Conservatives' Rebecca Pow, Alex Burghardt and Bob Neill, all of whom voted to remain in the European Union. However, Mr Harris believes the campaign was potentially far more widespread.

"This is part of a sophisticated advertising campaign, with pages setup to target users in every key constituency in the UK, with bespoke localised messaging; encouraging users to lobby their respective MPs," 89up said in its submission to the committee.

Rob Leathern, director of product management at Facebook, said: "On 7 November, all advertisers will have new requirements before they can place political ads in the UK, including Mainstream Network.

"These advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location through an authorisations process and accurately represent the organisation or person paying for the ad in a disclaimer.

More from Facebook

  • Nick Clegg will not be silenced on Brexit despite new Facebook role

  • Facebook: Hackers accessed names and contact details of nearly 30 million users

  • Facebook's UK tax bill has tripled to £15.7m after bumper year

  • Facebook denies claim that Instagram is 'open market' for drug dealers

  • Facebook needs more people to tackle hate speech

  • Facebook to hire human rights director following Rohingya abuses

"These steps must happen or the advertiser will be prevented from running ads related to politics on Facebook.

"We know we can't prevent election interference alone and offering more ad transparency allows journalists, researchers and other interested parties to raise important questions."

Continue Reading