UK public largely supportive of Amazon workers unionising

by Jeremy

The British public broadly supports trade union recognition for Amazon workers, with a majority supporting measures that would block the e-commerce giant from securing public sector contracts until the company provides fairer work practices, a poll from Unite has found.

Conducted by Survation, the poll of UK residents found that 73% think Amazon should be legally required to recognize and engage with trade unions representing their employees. In comparison, 68% support effective trade union recognition as a prerequisite for companies securing public sector contracts.UK public largely supportive of Amazon workers unionising

Of those who voted Conservative in 2019, 64% support union recognition as a prerequisite, which went up to 75% among 2019 Labour voters. On top of union recognition, 77% of those surveyed supported the idea that government should only grant contracts to companies that commit to fair work practices more broadly, including training, fair pay, and inclusion, which only 4% of respondents were opposed to.

For workers employed indirectly by Amazon, many of whom would be classified as “gig workers”, 74% of the public believes the firm is also responsible for providing them with fair work conditions. Only 16% thought the company was not responsible to these workers.

Just over three-quarters (76%) also believe Amazon’s workers should unionize without any interference from the company, something Amazon has a history of.

In April 2020, for example, Amazon attempted to stop its employees from participating in a virtual panel organized by technology workers concerned about the lack of measures to protect staff against Covid-19, deleting the invitation from thousands of employees’ calendars.

In the same month, it was discovered that Amazon-owned Whole Foods was using an interactive heat map tool to track where employees could be unionizing. It did this by monitoring various metrics to deduce the likelihood of a union effort being launched.

“Amazon workers have played a crucial part in people’s lives during the pandemic, and the public expects fair employment practices and decent terms and conditions,” said Unite executive officer Sharon Graham.

“Amazon attacks all attempts by workers to gain a collective voice of their own, but it is now time for a new settlement. The public strongly supports Amazon workers’ right to trade union representation regardless of whether the workers are directly employed or work in the gig economy.

“Unite is calling on Jeff Bezos to back a declaration that guarantees that Amazon workers in the UK and Ireland can talk with and form a union without fear. We are determined to win trade union rights for Amazon workers. Our union is campaigning up and down the country. On 31 March 2021, Unite set up a confidential whistleblowing hotline for Amazon workers in the UK and Ireland to encourage workers to expose poor treatment without the threat of reprisals from the company. When contacted about the hotline, a Unite spokesperson said: “Unite’s Amazon hotline is still open, and it’s receiving a high volume of traffic. The union receives many reports about poor treatment, including concerns over bullying managers and work rates.”

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