GMB Asks Councillors To Ensure That Amazon Supports Good Jobs And Economic Regeneration As It Doubles Number Of Warehouses Over Next 3 Years
Amazon’s refusal to pay proper taxes or to treat its workers properly gives it an unfair competitive advantage and is part of the reason why so many established high street names are going to the wall GMB tells councillors.
GMB, the union for staff in distribution, wrote to local councillors across the country, on 6th and 7th January, to alert them that Amazon plans to double the number of warehouses it operates in Britain in the next three years and to seek support to ensure that Amazon improves security of employment, treats their workers fairly and pays them a wage they can live on.
Martin Smith, GMB National Organizer, says in the letter “I am writing to you to alert you in case Amazon seeks to develop in your area. It was reported in the Observer last month that the company expects to double the number of warehouses it operates in Britain in the next three years.
We do not know where Amazon will develop new warehouses but they may seek local councils support for new planning permissions and grants – in the name of local regeneration. Amazon already operates in Croydon, Doncaster, Dunfermline, Gourock, Hemel Hemstead, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Rugeley and Swansea with the HQ in Slough.
The high tech way Amazon process orders and tracks inventory disguises that it is also a traditional labour intensive mail order retail business.
It 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.
It is time to strip away the high tech image and expose the exploitation involved in their business model.
How many workers Amazon employs is hard to pin down. Late in 2012 an Amazon official told a parliamentary committee the company employed about 15,000 people. Amazon told the press in Feb 2013 it employs more than 5,000 permanent employees across the UK.
Many staff at Amazon are actually employed by employment agency Randstad in casual or temporary jobs with no job security and no guaranteed incomes. Using Randstad to meet fluctuating demand for labour is equivalent to selection at the dock gates in Victorian times and is casual labour of the worst kind.
Amazon pays its staff just above the national minimum wage of £6.31 per hour. Paying a minimum wage rather than a wage workers can live on obliges taxpayers to top up wages for staff with families. Working families tax credit is a subsidy to a company like Amazon which pays little corporation taxes.
Staff complain about a culture of bullying and harassment endemic in the dataveillance 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.
Union activity in the UK has to be kept underground for fear of reprisals. So hostile are employers like Amazon, that union organisation is driven underground adopting the tactics of the French resistance or human rights campaigns in totalitarian regimes. The law in Germany better protects rights to organize and workers at some of Amazon's German warehouses took strike action on 16/17 December 2013 over pay.
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. The UK operation employs 15,000. This abuse has to stop.
GMB is working with employees to tackle these issues. How you can help GMB:
· Advise us if you are in talks with Amazon already
· Advise us if Amazon approaches your authority
· Work with us to ensure Amazon delivers real jobs with living wages in your area as a condition of planning permission
· Work with us to ensure Amazon recognises GMB and grants us access to their workforce as a condition of receiving planning permission
Please let me have your response, views or comments on how we get the company to improve security of employment, treat their workers fairly and pay them a wage they can live on.”
Contact: Martin Smith 07974 251 823 or Mick Conroy GMB Scotland 07921 289737 or Nadine Houghton GMB Croydon 07714 239227 or Mervyn Burnett GMB Wales 07980 753114