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Amazon to face legal challenge after workers’ rights revelations

The challenge comes days after GMB won a formal recognition ballot at the company.

Italy's competition auhority said an option to set up regular purchases was 'pre-selected by default' on a wide selection of products listed on Amazon's Italian website.
Italy's competition auhority said an option to set up regular purchases was 'pre-selected by default' on a wide selection of products listed on Amazon's Italian website. - Copyright AFP Jason Redmond
Italy's competition auhority said an option to set up regular purchases was 'pre-selected by default' on a wide selection of products listed on Amazon's Italian website. - Copyright AFP Jason Redmond

Many large corporations based in the US are either outwardly anti-trade union or they engage in practices that seek, in more subtle ways, to dissuade workers from engaging in collective bargaining. In the UK, Amazon has been accused of pressuring workers to give up their collective rights, according to the GMB trade union.

On 26th April,2024, the GMB union filed legal proceedings against Amazon in response to what it considers to be the company’s latest anti-union drive. The trade union claims Amazon has engaged in widespread attempts to coerce staff to cancel their trade union membership. The GMB has campaigned for a long time to secure recognition rights.

Legally, this type of behaviour is known as an ‘Inducement Claim’, encouraging individual Amazon workers to formally lodge a claim against their own employer for encouraging them to pass up their trade union and collective bargaining rights.

The challenge comes days after GMB won a formal recognition ballot at the company, a process, imposed by the UK Conservative government (the Trade Union Act of 2016), that requires the union to prove they have met a threshold of sufficient numbers of GMB members in the company’s fulfilment centre.

Union recognition would mean Amazon would be required, by law, to sit down with GMB on matters relating to pay, hours, and holidays. If this succeeds, this would be first time this has been achieved anywhere in the world outside of the U.S.

In terms of the legal action the GMB has instigated against Amazon, the claims include Amazon has:

  • Pressurised staff to leave the union. Allegedly, company bosses have erected QR codes in Amazon fulfilment centres which generate an email to the union’s membership department requesting that membership is cancelled.
  • Forced workers to attend hour-long anti-union seminars. These are apparently led by senior company managers, these briefings forced workers to listen to anti-union messages on work time.
  • Displayed anti-union messages throughout Amazon workplaces, including on billboards and screens.

Commenting on the union’s actions, Amanda Gearing, GMB Senior Organiser has said: “This is a company out of control. Amazon is a multi-billion-pound corporation, doing everything in its power to stop minimum wage workers from forming a union.”

Gearing adds: “Their latest American-style anti-union campaign proves they will stop at nothing to beat the rules that every other employer in the UK is expected to follow. It’s desperate measures and goes someway to show why Amazon workers as so determined to win the union recognition they deserve”.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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