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Amazon Kent Jan 20th Public Meeting

Monday, January 5, 2015

GMB Public Meeting In Kent On 20th Jan To Consider Impact Of Planned New Amazon Warehouse In Ashford

It is time to strip away the Amazon high tech image and expose the exploitation and refusal to pay taxes involved in the business model says GMB.

GMB, the union for Amazon workers, is mobilising support for a public meeting in Ashford on 20th January to put pressure on the company to come clean about the impact of the new Amazon warehouse planned for Sevington near the M20 in Kent.

The meeting is also to demand that Amazon agrees to meet the full cost of between £66m and £90m for constructing a new junction 10A on the M20 in Ashford. The projected new junction is 700 metres south east of junction 10 and will allow access to the new Amazon warehouse.

The public meeting in Ashford is part of an EU wide push to ensure that Amazon improves security of employment, treats workers fairly and pays them a wage they can live on in their distribution chain in the UK and elsewhere in the EU and pays proper taxes.

The details of the public meeting are as follows:

From 7.30 pm Tuesday 20th January 2015

Ashford International sports & social club
181 Beaver Road,
Ashford,
Kent TN23 7SG.

Speakers invited are Brendan Chilton, Prospective Labour Party Candidate for Ashford and   Martin Smith GMB National Organizer with other speakers invited with experience of how Amazon operate in other locations in the UK.

In 2013 it was reported that developers AXA Real Estate Investment Management and DMI Properties had submitted initial plans for the warehouse north east of Highfield Lane in Sevington. GMB has since seen evidence that this warehouse will be occupied by Amazon. 

Amazon has operations in Croydon, Doncaster, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Gourock, Hemel Hemstead, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Rugeley, Swansea, Slough, Holborn in London, Dublin and Cork. Amazon told MPs in May 2014 that it employs more than 7,000 permanent employees across the UK and a further 15,000 casual and seasonal staff throughout the year. The new Ashford warehouse is part of Amazon plans to double the number of warehouses it operates in Britain in the next few years.

Martin Smith, GMB National Organiser, said “The high tech way Amazon process orders and tracks inventory disguises that it is also a traditional labour intensive mail order retail business.

It is time to strip away the high tech image and expose the exploitation involved in their business model.

Amazon relies on a road network funded by taxpayers for the business to business delivery of products to warehouses and for the business to customer delivery to private homes. It relies on large numbers of staff to receive the goods, to pick and pack them to meet customer orders.

Where it differs from other retailers is its refusal to pay proper taxes or to treat its workers properly.   This gives Amazon an unfair competitive advantage and is part of the reason why so many established high street names are going to the wall.

The starting rate for Amazon staff is £7.65 per hour. GMB is calling on Amazon to work with its trade union and local communities to offer decent permanent jobs to as many local residents as possible on wages that they can live on without claiming benefits.

Staff complain about a culture of bullying and harassment endemic in the total surveillance that comes from staff being required to wear digital arm mounted terminals (AMTs) with no agreed protocols re breaks, speeds etc.

Requiring employees to wear AMTs and subjecting them to “dataveillance”, while denying them union rights, takes away the consent essential for the positive use of digital arm-band devices. Members say it is human automation – they are kind of robots with no say. Working at excessive speeds and the routine performance of repetitive tasks without safeguards can lead to long term injuries. 

GMB union activity in the Amazon UK has to be kept underground for fear of reprisals. So hostile is Amazon that the GMB underground organization has had to adopt the tactics of the French resistance or human rights campaigns in totalitarian regimes.

Government and HMRC need to change the rules to ensure that Amazon pays proper taxes. In 2006 Amazon transferred its UK business to Luxembourg and reclassified its UK operation as simply "order fulfilment" business to qualify for lower taxes. The Luxembourg office employs 380 people. This abuse has to stop.”

End

Contact: Martin Smith at martin.smith@gmb.org.uk  or 07974 251 722 or Andy Prendergast 07984 492726 GMB Press Office 07921 289 880

 

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