SDA & TWU FORM ALLIANCE TO TAKE ON AMAZON & ONLINE RETAILERS AS FAIR WORK CASE OPENS
Two of Australia’s largest unions are joining forces to address working conditions in the area of online retail, including Amazon. The move comes as a case opens at Fair Work over a labour hire worker sacked from Amazon’s Sydney Fulfillment Centre after he joined the union.
The SDA, the union for online retail and warehouse workers, and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) have set up the Online Retail & Delivery Workers Alliance – an alliance aimed at bringing fair standards to the growing online industry.
The move to build the Online Retail & Delivery Workers Alliance comes as:
- retail unions globally in UNI, including the SDA, have formed the global Amazon Alliance;
- the global unions for retail workers and for delivery workers, UNI and International Transport Federation, have agreed to work closely together to organise Amazon; and
- the SDA starts proceedings in the Fair Work Commission for a member sacked from work at an Amazon Fulfilment Centre. The worker had his hours of work cut the week he was seen talking to an SDA official in the tea room. Later he was sacked from the labour hire company after asking for more hours of work.
- the SDA & TWU will work together to organise online retail & delivery workers to secure collective bargaining, fair pay, secure work, workers compensation, leave entitlements and a safe working environment.
SDA Secretary, Bernie Smith said the alliance will bring together all workers in online retail businesses, no matter how they are hired, to improve their working life. Already over 2,000 workers in online retail in NSW have joined the SDA, the online retail workers union. Combine this with delivery drivers and the Alliance will take the cooperation of the SDA & TWU in this area to a new level, as part of the global union moves to provide security for workers in the online retail industry.
“We’ve seen shocking examples of workers in online retailers overseas being subjected to appalling working conditions. We can’t afford to let that happen in Australia, which is why we’re taking the unprecedented step of joining together to maximise our capacity to protect workers in the industry,” Mr Smith said.
“We have serious concerns about Amazon from what we have heard from unions overseas. Workers at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre have been joining the SDA. We are not going to accept the sacking of a worker, who joined the union, who just wants to work enough hours to support his family. Through this alliance the SDA and TWU will support each other to reach out to workers within the Amazon retail and transport supply chain in Australia to let them know they have rights and that they can exercise those rights,” said SDA NSW Secretary, Bernie Smith.
“We will not tolerate the downgrading of jobs in Australia by Amazon. The company has an atrocious record on working conditions around the world, impoverishing working families and forcing them to seek government assistance through food stamps and medical help. Our aim is to ensure Amazon workers in Australia are highly organized and acutely aware of their own rights and the company’s responsibilities,” said TWU’s National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“We know that fair working conditions and safe workplaces are inextricably linked. Nowhere is this more acute than when it comes to transport in the retail supply chain which has high rates of deaths and injuries. It is vitally important that wealthy retailers like Amazon are held to account over practices throughout their supply chain. Our alliance will help achieve this goal,” Kaine added.
The dismissed worker, who worked for a labour hire company at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Sydney since the global company first opened in Sydney, was sacked recently. “What happened to me was not fair. I just want to get back to work at Amazon. I cannot say too much now, but I will say that I am so glad that I joined the union, because they are there for you when unfair things happen. If you work in online retail you should join the SDA or TWU,” said the worker.
The International Trade Union Confederation called on Amazon to work with the alliance to ensure respect for workers and the community in Australia.
“Amazon is not just changing the world of work, it is changing the way the world works,” General Secretary of the ITUC Sharan Burrow said.
“Local and global alliances are critical if we are to change the way Amazon treats its workers and the broader community.”
“The ITUC stands in solidarity with the SDA and TWU “Online Retail & Delivery Workers Alliance” in Australia and undertakes to support them in their endeavours to bring respect and fairness to Amazon workplaces.” said Sharan Burrow.
Amazon has been in the spotlight over poor working conditions, with workers across Europe last Friday holding strikes and demonstrations. The UK’s GMB union revealed ambulances were called out 600 times to 14 Amazon warehouses over three years with one pregnant woman forced to stand for 10 hours a day. In the US Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill which would tax employers like Amazon when their workers need government assistance such as food stamps and medical help.
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