Black Friday protest highlights abysmal working conditions
TRADE union activists shut down an Amazon warehouse yesterday in a bid to highlight the plight of the workers on Black Friday — the retail giant’s biggest sales day of the year.
Unite Community Scottish co-ordinator Jamie Caldwell said: “We’re here today to show solidarity with Amazon’s highly exploited workforce.”
He told the Star: “Amazon delivers everything except decent workplace terms and conditions.
“Only workers can deliver that through collective action, and we’re here to show the power unions have in the workplace.”
Activists from the People’s Assembly Scotland, the Scottish TUC’s Better than Zero Campaign and Unite Community blockaded the road to Amazon’s huge distribution warehouse in Dunfermline to protest against the company’s draconian employment practices.
Amazon hires thousands of Christmas temps on low pay using the notorious agency Transline, which also supplies workers for disgraced retailer Sports Direct.
Like many agency workers, they are expected to sign an opt-out of the EU working times directive, and work upwards of 60 hours a week, and meet the same targets on the first hour as they do on the 60th hour.
Workers are bussed in from across Scotland and are docked money from their wages by the company.
Campaigners also accused Amazon of using a punitive “six strikes and you’re sacked” rule, where workers could be penalised for being a few minutes late, taking too many toilet breaks and not walking fast enough in the warehouse.
The Black Friday craze was imported from the US to Britain in recent years, bringing with it riots in shops and supermarkets as people come to blows to buy knock-down sale items.
Amazon made an estimated £1 billion over the Black Friday weekend last year.
The protesters hit out at the promotion of consumer culture, the super profits made by these companies and the way in which workers are treated in the process.
Independent Fife Councillor Marie Penman joined the protests, as “it’s time companies like Amazon are brought to a stop.”
She said: “They treat workers like slaves, it doesn’t matter how staff are treated as long as their products reach consumers.”
She branded it “completely wrong” that companies like Amazon have been subsidised by the government for bringing their operations to Dunfermline, where they rip off local workers.
Unite Fife area activists chair John Gillespie accused Amazon of treating workers “in a draconian manner” by setting unrealistic targets, paying low wages, and hiring and firing staff as it suits them.
He said: “Amazon makes billions on days like Black Friday, and they should be spending it on their workforce instead of lining the pockets of shareholders.”
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