Unions deliver solidarity on 'Make Amazon Pay' day


UNIONS PUT THEIR SOLIDARITY ON DISPLAY on November 26. You could see in Toronto, in the many different union flags carried by the folks gathered at the corner of Steeles and Heritage Road to support the #makeamazonpay warehouse workers campaign. It was the same thing in Brampton and Ajax and in hundreds of other rallies, large and small, at Amazon shipping centres in 50 countries around the world.

'Make Amazon Pay’

An international coalition of unions, equality and environmental groups turned “Black Friday” the busiest shopping day of the year into a “Make Amazon Pay” day of action.

The movement is demanding Amazon make changes to its business, including improved pay, an end to employee surveillance, and union engagement.

“Amazon takes too much and gives back too little,” it claims—backed by trade unions, grassroots campaigns and non-profit-making organisations in individual countries.

In an op-ed article in the Toronto Star on Friday Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, wrote of how we all enjoy online shopping but almost never think about how all the really hard work warehouse workers do is “hidden away”.

Dias pointed out that what the Amazon workers do is a gargantuan task that makes Amazon a lot of money.

At Amazon alone, annual sales have more than doubled in the past five years, topping $386 billion in 2020. The firm is valued at an astonishing $1.6 trillion. Jeff Bezos, founder and former CEO, is the richest person in the world.

Workers pushed to the brink

“During this pandemic, warehouses have pushed employees to the brink and beyond,” wrote Dias

“It comes as no surprise, then, that these workers have fought to unionize,” he wrote.

“Warehouse workers know they deserve the good jobs that come with a union contract. It is high time Amazon, and all warehouse companies, understood this.”

The rally at the Steeles location in Toronto was organized by the Warehouse Workers Centre.

In Germany, the union Verdi called on employees at major shipping centres to strike, beginning on Wednesday night. And in France, major union CGT is also calling for workers to down tools.

Worldwide, nearly 50 organizations have signed up to a list of “common demands”, published by the Make Amazon Pay coalition, which include:

  • raising warehouse workers’ pay and adding hazard pay and peak time increments

  • halting worker “surveillance” and strict productivity targets

  • extending sick leave and improving Covid-19 tracking and reporting

  • ending casual employment status and “union-busting” activities

  • paying taxes without using loopholes or tax havens

The 600,000 member GMB union in the UK released figures on Friday that it said showed ambulance callouts to Amazon warehouses increased by nearly 50% in the run-up to Black Friday—something it blames on staff rushing to hit “crushing targets”.

Mick Rix, from the GMB Union, said: “This company is a pandemic profiteer that can afford to do better.

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