Customers are hyped with Amazon’s Prime Day, that’s starting on Monday. For 48 hours, deals on products ranging in technology, kitchen and household items, books, gaming, and clothing will be on sale for Prime Members. What’s more exciting is that Amazon promises one-day shipping for everyone who participates.
However, while Prime members shout for joy at the one-day shipping, Amazon warehouse staffs are screaming in protests. Workers from the company’s warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota announced that they would be on strike on Prime Day.
Amazon’s workers are demanding safer working conditions and secure jobs. During the strike, the workers will leave the warehouse facility and protest outside. The strike will last for six hours.
The workers are asking the tech retail giant to make temporary jobs into full-time jobs — to make all benefits available for all employees. They also want the company to reduce quotas, which are considered unsafe for the workers.
With regards to quota, Amazon workers are required to meet a specific quota of products to be moved, which fluctuates during the holiday rush. Workers hustle around the warehouse floor to meet the demands. If a worker is not able to meet his or her quota, the company have grounds to fire him or her.
Previous warehouse workers have shared to others about the enormous physical pain, unhealthy need to always rush (especially during holidays), and condescending management practices they’ve received while working for Amazon.
Warehouse employees are not alone in their fight. A group of Amazon engineers is flying to Minnesota to join the strike.
Previous strikes held by Amazon workers happened last December 2018 and March of this year. A group of workers has asked supervisors not to count their prayer time and bathroom breaks against their productivity rate. They also called for a better work situation, such as converting temporary staff into full-time workers.
Apart from the strikes in Minnesota, warehouse workers in Amazon’s Staten Island facility are also working hard on building their own union. From the employees’ perspective, negotiating a labor contract with the tech giant through a worker’s union is the only way to improve their working conditions.
Amazon has claimed to have made the necessary changes to adhere to the strike group’s demands.
Strikes in Other Countries
Amazon’s worker relation problems are not limited to the US alone. Strikes in Europe are more frequent compared in America.
In July 2018, workers from across Europe walked out of their job to protest their poor working conditions. Amazon workers from Germany, Spain, and Poland went on a strike during Amazon’s busiest day — Prime Day.
According to Stefanie Nutzenberger, an official at German trade union Verdi, said, “The message is clear — while the online giant gets rich, it is saving money on the health of its workers.”
Union representatives in Germany accused Amazon of freezing salaries and reducing the pay of medical leaves.
In Spain, around 1,000 Amazon employees walked out for three days over a dispute with the management regarding reducing workers’ rights. Last year’s walkout was the second strike conducted by the workers in Spain.
Meanwhile, workers in Poland did not walk out of the facility; instead only work the minimum amount of work (as stipulated in their contracts) before going home for the day. Their tactic has significantly slowed down the productivity of the company.
To address workers concerns about limited opportunities for growth, Amazon announced that they would be spending around $700 million within the next six years on a training program for its staff.
The plan is being called “Upskilling 2025.” It will be available for 100,000 workers.
The aim is to train Amazon’s workers with skills that will progress them into advanced jobs within and outside of the company. One of the career path available is for fulfillment center workers. Those working in the warehouses could be trained for technical roles in IT.
Aside from classroom training, the company aims to have on-the-job training through its Amazon Apprenticeship program.
The company is working on providing chances for its staff to transition from physical manual labor to a desk job. This is because Amazon envisions to use robots and artificial intelligence in replacing human jobs.
The company said in a statement via CNN, “Through its Upskilling 2025 pledge, Amazon is focused on creating pathways to careers in areas that will continue growing in years to come, including healthcare, machine learning, manufacturing, robotics, computer science, cloud computing, and more.”