A protest by members of the German union ver.di Representatives of trade unions from key Amazon market countries will meet in Berlin tomorrow and Thursday to examine the online retailer’s reported mistreatment of its workforce and its anti-union …

 

A protest by members of the German union ver.di

A protest by members of the German union ver.di

Representatives of trade unions from key Amazon market countries will meet in Berlin tomorrow and Thursday to examine the online retailer’s reported mistreatment of its workforce and its anti-union stance.

The unions – all members of the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and UNI Global Union – are thoroughly assessing the situation in Germany, where the ver.di union is organising union membership in major locations throughout the country. Unions will developed strategies for increasing worker representation across Amazon, including in Poland and the Czech Republic, where the company is planning to open five more distribution centres.

UNI Global Union head of commerce, Alke Boessiger, said:

“The union movement does not accept the Amazon model for the new economy, where workers are treated as robots, precarious work is the norm, and public funds are misused, while profits are siphoned out the host country to avoid taxes. We saw in Germany and France that unionised Amazon workers are prepared to stand up to Amazon. Jeff Bezos and his cronies are mistaken if they think they can run roughshod over the unions in Poland, the Czech Republic as part of their eastward expansion plan. The global union movement will stand with these unions in their struggle for decent work and conditions for Amazon employees.“

French Amazon workers protest

French Amazon workers protest

Ingo Marowsky, ITF global head – supply chain and logistics, explained:

“UNI and the ITF are experienced in dealing with multinational retail as well as delivery companies. Just recently we proved to DHL, for example, that corporate responsibility has to include good industrial relations, and due diligence processes must include industrial relations. Amazon should listen to such stories and learn from them.”

Head of UNI Post & Logistics, Stephen DeMatteo concluded:

“The global supply-chain and delivery model are changing. Companies such as Amazon and DHL have a major role to play in setting responsible and sustainable standards in delivery and logistics.  However, if they do not act responsibly to their workforce there is a danger we will enter another Dark Age for workers. The labour movement will take a stand against any unacceptable economic model being developed to maximise profits at the expense of human dignity.”

Ver.di members on strike at Amazon

Ver.di members on strike at Amazon

Amazon has a track record of poor treatment of employees and anti-union attitudes, such as:

  • Tim Collins, director for Amazon’s EU logistics operations is on record that there is no need for unions at Amazon because they can “create friction” between management and workers
  • Amazon is opening four distribution centres in Poland and the Czech Republic this year and a fifth in Poland in 2015 – unions believe that this expansion eastwards may be a tactic to avoid trade unions
  •  Amazon treats its staff like robots, forcing them to work under enormous stress for long hours in poor conditions
  • Amazon workers at distribution centres are required to wear digital arm-mounted terminals that monitor their every move
  • There are no agreed protocols on breaks and speed of work
  • Amazon culture allegedly spreads bullying and harassment
  • Amazon boss Jeff Bezos was recently voted the worst CEO on the planet in a poll by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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