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Kent Campaign On Amazon New Centre

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

GMB To Launch Public Campaign For Decent Jobs And Good Pay At Projected New Amazon Warehouse In Ashford Kent

Amazon disguises that it is a traditional mail order business with a high tech image and exploitation is central to their business model in UK, France and Germany where they face strikes says GMB.

GMB, the union for Amazon workers, is to launch a public campaign to ensure the company agrees to decent pay and good jobs at a new warehouse Amazon are projecting to develop in Ashford in Kent.

Last year it was reported that developers AXA Real Estate Investment Management and DMI Properties had submitted initial plans for the warehouse to the north east of Highfield Lane, in Sevington near the M20. GMB has now seen written proof that this development is intended for 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 the press in Feb 2013 it employs more than 5,000 permanent employees across the UK and a further 10,000 to 15,000 casual staff throughout the year. Amazon plans to double the number of warehouses it operates in Britain in the next three years.

This Ashford campaign will be part of an EU wide push by GMB, Ver.Di and CGT 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.

Ver.di members at some of Amazon's German warehouses in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld took strike action on 16/17 December 2013, on 2nd April and last week on Thursday 17th April on pay. On 18th March there was a strike by CGT members at the Amazon warehouse in Chalon near Lyon.

Martin Smith, GMB National Organiser, said “We want the Ashford public to understand that 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.

Many staff at Amazon are actually employed by employment agencies. Until Feb 2013 the agency was Randstad who offered casual or temporary jobs with no job security and no guaranteed incomes. Using Randstad and such agencies 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 pay most of the staff the national minimum wage of £6.31 per hour. Paying a minimum wage rather than a living wage obliges taxpayers top up wages for staff with families and is a subsidy to a company paying no 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.

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.”


Contact:  Martin Smith 07974 251 722 or Mick Conroy GMB Scotland 07921 289737 or Nadine Houghton GMB Croydon 07714 239227 or Mervyn Burnett GMB Wales 07980 753114 .   GMB Press Office 07921 289 880 or 07974 251 823


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