Coronavirus – benefits AMAZON, but also supermarkets…

Coronavirus – benefits AMAZON, but also supermarkets…

Βy Giorgos Georgiou*

Complaints are also being made in Cyprus about threats of dismissal, exhausting working hours without the necessary protective equipment.

Murky references in the international press about the alienation caused in labour relations because of the demand for faster and personalised service…

The issue of the violation of labour rights due to the pandemic has been raised before the European Commission.

Who hasn’t ordered at least one product from AMAZON?

The pandemic and ensuing mass staying at home, as expected, boosted AMAZON’s sales. Its profits just in the first three months are equivalent to $ 33 million an hour – a total of $ 75.4 billion!

At precisely the same time, there are increasing reports in the international press that the company isn’t doing enough to protect workers from the coronavirus and consequently the recipients of its parcels across the whole world.

In an interview he gave with the ‘Washington Post’, which incidentally is owned by AMAZON, on 17th March, Luismi Ruiz, a spokesman for the company’s workers’ union, said “there is an atmosphere of fear” in the company over this issue. Workers at other screening centres also said that the pressure they are coming under to keep up with the pace of work is pushing them to ignore hygiene regulations, given that otherwise they risk being fired.

On 17th April, the company was forced to suspend operations in France after a court ruled that the company had not taken the necessary precautions to confront the coronavirus. Reacting, AMAZON put pressure on the workers, putting them in the public eye. The statement by a representative of the “Solidaires” workers union is indicative, who stated that the company implied that the workers don’t want to work… thus leaving consumers exposed in times of shortage!

Indeed, on 5th May, the Vice President of AMAZON submitted his resignation, expressing his “indignation” about the repression suffered by the workers of this colossus who criticized it either for the insufficient security measures to confront the coronavirus or because they went on strike.

The case of AMAZON, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Similar accusations are increasing constantly in many member states, from workers of companies that, despite being smaller in size, have become equally necessary and “front-line” as AMAZON currently. In the case of Cyprus, the complaints (about threats of dismissal, exhausting working hours without the required protective equipment) concern supermarkets, bakeries, security companies and fruit shops.

Article 31 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of Europe guarantees the right to working conditions that respect the health, safety and dignity of working people. In addition, in Article 6 of Council Directive 89/391/EEC, paragraphs 1 and 2, outline the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe working environment, such as the avoidance of danger.

Taking into account the above and that AMAZON is active in the EU too, I submitted a written question to the European Commission calling for the following:

– the need for an immediate investigation to be carried out concerning the aforementioned complaints/allegations of Amazon workers in Europe, as well as asking what measures the Commission will take if the allegations turn out to be accurate.

– to provide an answer as to how it will safeguard working people’s working conditions who are employed in “front line” companies and have become indispensable (for examples, hospitals, supermarkets, pharmacies, bakeries) in this situation./ibna

* Giorgos Georgiou is a Member of the European Parliament from Cyprus with the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL)