Workplace Report January 2021

Health & safety news

Union demands inquiry into Amazon work conditions

General union the GMB demanded a parliamentary inquiry into “dehumanising” working conditions at online retail giant Amazon warehouses as part of international Black Friday protests against the company at the end of last year.

The union joined a global coalition, including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Amnesty International, Oxfam and War on Want, that aims to curb Amazon’s “monstrous” power, and #MakeAmazonPay.

Amnesty International’s UK director Kate Allen warned the Black Friday rush could turn Amazon warehouses into “hotspots for infection” as her organisation launched a new briefing, Amazon, Let Workers Unionise. This documents the company’s treatment of workers in the UK, France, Poland and the USA.

“Despite known outbreaks of Covid-19, workers are being pressured and frightened into going into work in unsafe conditions, and unions are being intimidated and prevented from helping,” she said. “Aggressive productivity targets mean social distancing rules cannot be effectively implemented, putting the lives of those working in Amazon warehouses at serious risk.”

The briefing explains how Amazon’s rapid expansion during the pandemic has exacerbated long-standing concerns about the US-based corporation’s approach to health and safety and its adversarial relationship with trade unions.