Amazon workers can be fired by computers - report

Afraid one day you'll be replaced at work by a robot? Well, so might your boss.

Thousands of Amazon employees have been fired in the past 18 months by software which analysed their productivity and deemed them too slow, The Verge reports.

Documents obtained by the tech news site show about 300 lost their job at a single warehouse in the year to September 2018 for failing to meet quotas. Amazon has dozens of similar centres across the US, suggesting thousands have been fired "for failing to move packages quickly enough".

 "Amazon's system tracks the rates of each individual associate's productivity," a letter signed by an Amazon attorney said, "and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors."

Amazon denied the report, calling it "absolutely not true".

"We would never dismiss an employee without first ensuring that they had received our fullest support, including dedicated coaching to help them improve and additional training," a spokesperson told Newshub.

"Similar to many companies, we have performance expectations... We support people who do not perform to the levels expected of them with dedicated coaching to help them improve and be successful in their career at Amazon."

Amazon's computers also track how long employees take to scan packages or go to the toilet, The Verge reports, and are able to generate warnings if people are taking longer than expected.

The Verge says supervisors are able to override the computer's decision to terminate an employee.

Amazon has come under heavy criticism in recent years for its treatment of employees. Last year an undercover reporter in the UK found they were skipping toilet breaks to keep their jobs.

While the company's basic pay rate is above the US minimum wage, CEO Jeff Bezos is the world's richest man.