Protesters congregated at landmarks across Sunderland after Unite the Union claimed Amazon’s profits have ‘tripled off the backs of workers who are prevented from having a collective voice in their workplace’.
Unite has now launched a confidential whistle-blowing hotline in the UK and Ireland for Amazon employers, though Amazon UK has said that staff are free to join unions.
The union is calling on Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon to sign up to a declaration of neutrality which would guarantee workers the freedom to talk with and form a union without fear.
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Amazon reported that its first-quarter profit more than tripled from a year ago, which was fuelled by the growth of online shopping.
In the first three months of this year, the company reported profit of 8.1 billion dollars (£5.8 billion), compared to 2.5 billion dollars (£1.8 billion) the year before.
Unite executive officer, Sharon Graham said: “Amazon’s profits have tripled off the backs of workers who have been essential during the pandemic. But the company continues to be plagued by reports of poor working conditions and anti-union tactics.”
Unite has recently written to Jeff Bezos to call for a declaration of neutrality.
Ms Graham said: “Our union is calling on the company to make a clear commitment and sign up to a declaration of neutrality. The declaration would guarantee workers the freedom to talk with and form a union without fear. If the company is genuine then it should be more than happy to sign the declaration."
The news comes after an Amazon fulfilment centre was opened in Darlington in May last year.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “We respect our employees’ right to join, form or not to join a labour union or other lawful organisation of their own selection.
"The fact is, we already offer excellent pay, excellent benefits and excellent opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment. The unions know this.”
Amazon added that the company place ‘enormous value’ on having daily conversations with each associate to ensure ‘direct engagement’ with employees is a strong part of their work culture.