Thousands of Amazon warehouse workers in about 40 countries plan to take part in protests and walkouts to coincide with Black Friday sales, one of the busiest days of the year for online shopping. line.
Employees in the US, UK, India, Japan, Australia, South Africa and across Europe are demanding better wages and working conditions as the cost of living crisis escalates aggravates, in a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay”. The campaign is coordinated by an international coalition of trade unions, with support from environmental and civil society groups.
“It’s time for the tech giant to immediately stop its heinous and dangerous practices, uphold the law and bargain with workers who want to do a better job,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, l one of the campaign organizers.
Tension with workers has been a longstanding issue at the e-commerce giant, which has faced complaints of unfair labor practices as well as employee activism and union campaigns at some facilities. In what was seen as a watershed moment, workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted earlier this year to join an upstart union.
“While we are not perfect in any area, if you objectively look at what Amazon is doing on these important issues, you will see that we take our role and our impact very seriously,” said Amazon spokesperson David Nieberg.
He cited the company’s goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and that it “continues to offer competitive salaries and excellent benefits, and invent new new ways to ensure the safety and health of our employees”.
French and German unions – CGT and Ver.di – are leading the latest collective action, with coordinated strikes at 18 major warehouses, aimed at disrupting shipments to major European markets.
Monika di Silvestre, head of Ver.di’s Amazon committee in Germany, said workers were particularly concerned about how their productivity was closely monitored by computers, with algorithms setting targets, for example for the number of packages that they have to process per hour.
“Workers are under a lot of pressure with these algorithms,” she said. “It does not differentiate between workers, whether they are elderly or disabled. Workers lie awake at night thinking only of their productivity stats.
She called on European politicians to strengthen labor rights across the bloc. “We don’t have the right to strike anywhere in Europe – at European level,” she said.
In the UK, workers associated with the GMB union have planned protests outside several warehouses, including the one in Coventry.
“Amazon workers in Coventry are overworked, underpaid and they’ve had enough,” said GMB senior organizer Amanda Gearing, adding that “hundreds” will gather to demand a 10 month pay rise, £50 per hour at £15.
Any worker who quits during a shift could lose the second half of a £500 bonus that Amazon announced for UK warehouse workers last month. The final payout depends on staff taking “no unauthorized absences” between November 22 and December 24. The GMB said linking payments to attendance could be construed as unlawful incitement not to strike.
In the United States, protests and rallies will take place in more than 10 cities and outside a building on 5th Avenue in New York where Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns a condo. Multiple rallies are also planned in India while in Japan, members of a recently formed union will demonstrate outside the company’s national headquarters in Tokyo. In Bangladesh, Amazon supply chain garment workers will protest in Dhaka and Chittagong.
Some protests will focus on Amazon’s environmental and social footprint, for example in Ireland where people will gather outside the company’s offices in Dublin to push back against two new data centers planned for the city. In South Africa, protesters will gather near Amazon’s new offices in Cape Town, which are growing on land that indigenous peoples hold sacred.
Some unions have expressed concern about the current economic climate amid a warning from Amazon that its peak Christmas season may not be as busy as usual. The company’s decision to lay off 10,000 employees will also make wage negotiations more difficult.
Laurent Cretin, CFE-CGC union delegate in France, said the company will have 880 workers in a warehouse in Chalon-sur-Saône this Christmas season, up from 1,000 before covid, which he linked to tightening restrictions. consumption expenditure and transfer. of activity to robotic warehouses.
“Projections aren’t great, we’re not sure we’ll do as well as last year which saw a post-covid surge,” he said.
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