The high-tech way Amazon processes orders and tracks inventory disguises the fact that it is also a traditional labour-intensive mail order retail business that exploits its staff, as well as dodging taxes, claims the GMB.
On Wednesday, the GMB protested with anti-social behavioural orders (ASBO’s) at nine workplaces in protest at Amazon’s failure to pay proper taxes and a living wage of £7.45 per hour to their employees and denial of their rights to union representation and collective bargaining.
Amazon has paid no corporation tax in the UK for the last three years although they had sales of more than £7 billion in the UK. Amazon is able to avoid taxes, including some VAT, by driving sales through a European head office in Luxembourg.
GMB protests took place yesterday morning outside Amazon locations in Doncaster, Glenrothes, Gourock, Hemel Hemstead, Peterborough, Milton Keynes, Rugeley, Swansea and the Slough HQ.
GMB members protested by presenting ASBO’s at these locations with the messages: ‘Pay your tax: public are fed up subsidising Amazon’ and ‘Pay a living wage’.
They were also inviting Amazon staff who had not already done so to join GMB.
It is not clear how many of the 15,000 staff the company claim to employ in the UK are employed directly by Amazon and in permanent full time jobs.
Many GMB members working for the company are employed by Randstad, an employment agency in casual or temporary jobs with no job security and no guaranteed incomes.
Amazon pay its staff as little as £6.20 per hour – just above the national minimum wage of £6.19 per hour.
Staff complain to GMB about a culture of bullying and harassment endemic in the data-veillance that comes from staff being required to wear digital arm mounted terminals (AMTs) with no agreed protocols re breaks, speeds etc.
Union activity has to be kept underground for fear of reprisals.
Paul Clarke 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 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.
‘Profitable companies like Amazon dodging fair taxes while failing to pay their staff a living wage and treat them properly deserve a corporate ASBO.
‘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.
‘GMB plan to strip away the high tech image and expose the exploitation involved in their business model.
‘Amazon uses Randstad employment agency to meet fluctuating demand for labour which is equivalent to selection at the dock gates in Victorian times and is casual labour of the worst kind.’
Information on Randstad
Paying a minimum wage rather than a living wage obliges taxpayers to top up wages for staff with families and is a subsidy to a company paying no corporation taxes.
Requiring employees to wear AMTs and subjecting them to data-veillance, 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.
HMRC should throw the book at Amazon and make them pay proper taxes.
GMB estimates that tax dodging by companies such as Amazon, Starbucks, Google and others, costs us all over £25 billion a year – two thirds of the deficit.
GMB want to bring Amazon to book so that they pay a living wage and to concede the rights of their employees to belong to GMB and have collective bargaining for pay and conditions.
GMB members at the company say that the name Amazon has become a dirty word among their friends and family and Amazon are now swimming against the tide of public sentiment.
‘While it is a jungle out there and whilst everyone wants goods as cheap as possible it is now beginning to dawn on people the consequences of buying from tax dodging companies who treat their staff so badly.’
l The GMB is opposing the plan by the Head Teacher and Governing body of the Bishop Of Rochester Academy in Medway to dismiss nearly 60 support staff as it prepares to move into a £23 million new school building.
The GMB has been told that the job losses are necessary due to falling student numbers, lack of funding from the local authority and the move to the new school building.
But Frank Macklin, GMB regional organiser, said: ‘The Head teacher said during a meeting that it is sad to see people losing their jobs, but they have to work with the budget they are given.
‘GMB ask why does the school need two vice principals and a top heavy structure?
‘GMB also ask why are GMB members, who are among the lowest paid school staff in the country, being sacked while those at the top get a pay increase at the expense of others?
‘GMB does not believe that now is the right time to make these big staff cuts at the school, as the school is about to move into a state of the art £23 million new building.
‘GMB also believes that this will have a huge detrimental effect on the welfare of the students as they adjust to their new environment.
‘GMB has written to the school to ask for more financial information about the staff cuts and also written to Medway Council to get more information about the shortfall in funding.
‘We have also written to the Bishop of Rochester to ask that the diocese intervene in this process.
‘GMB members who work at this school are good hardworking people who deserve better from this employer given the years of excellent service they have provided the school and children.
‘GMB intends to campaign locally with our members, parents, children and the public as well as local councillors, MPs and the media, to have this shocking decision reversed.’