Brussels, Belgium – July 23, 2020 – Long hours, employee concerns, and questionable labour practices emerged as dominant themes in recent hearings investigating global online retailing giant Amazon.
Held on July 21 by Member of the European Parliament Leïla Chaibi, together with representatives from UNI Global Union, the hearings featured testimony from Amazon warehouse workers and delivery drivers in the United States and Canada, including Arash Khayamian, a Toronto-based driver who helped unionize his Amazon-contracted delivery company, DEC Fleet Services, with UFCW Locals 175 & 633 in October 2017.
During the hearings, current and former Amazon employees from Minnesota, California, New York, and Ontario detailed grueling working conditions at the company and its contractors, marked by favouritism, lengthy hours, a lack of breaks and overtime pay, verbal abuse from managers, precarious schedules, and health and safety concerns, among other issues.
The hearings also shed light on Amazon’s labour practices, with Brother Khayamian sharing his story of being fired by DEC Fleet Services for supporting unionization efforts at the Amazon-contracted delivery company. In another organizing campaign, former Amazon designer Emilie Cunningham was terminated by the online retailing behemoth for attempting to unionize with colleagues in order to improve workplace health and safety conditions during COVID-19.
In the case of DEC Fleet Services, first contract negotiations broke down shortly after employees unionized, with the company claiming it did not control several aspects of the job it said were dictated by Amazon. DEC then closed and filed for bankruptcy in April 2018. A similar outcome happened with Amazon contract delivery service All Canadian Courier when drivers at the company joined UFCW Locals 175 & 633 in January 2018 and the company shut down immediately after, citing “unstable and declining volumes” of work from Amazon.
In response to these tactics, the union filed unfair labour practice and other charges with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The charges are currently before the board.
Since launching in 1994, Amazon has become the world’s largest online marketplace. However, the company’s efforts to dominate as the leading global online retailer have been and continue to be built on its treatment of employees and contractors, with Amazon workers across the globe reporting extra-long workdays, minimal or no breaks, and unsafe working conditions. To learn more about Amazon’s treatment of workers, click here.