Contributed by Ugly
Concern is building over the planned major move into Australia by controversial Internet company Amazon.
Some significant businesses are already worried. For instance, Harvey Norman has seen its share value drop and its owner Gerry Harvey is reputed, to have personally lost $100 million. Other companies, in the electrical, white goods retailers like JB HI-Fi and others retail companies like Bunnings and the Woolworths, Coles and Aldi supermarket chains are also feeling the heat. Smaller businesses stand to be affected too.
Amazon’s advantage is its size and fast distribution system. There is a plan to build a major “fulfillment centre,” here in Australia. This means a large depot. Backing it will be a sophisticated national distribution system. On top of this, Amazon’s modus operandi is to undercut its competitors to win over their business.
The main problem is that this is routinely carried out at the cost of low wages and bad work practices. For instance, in it’s German “fulfillment centre,” organises its workers into teams and provides a 10 percent bonus, so long as no-one takes a sick day off during the month. If someone does, the whole team loses out. This creates pressure to accept a gradual erosion of conditions.
The company’s shop floor processes use an extreme form of Taylorism, that is assembly line specialisation, constant monitoring and speed up and there is a history of anti-unionism sand the use of “temporary workers”.
Amazon already employs about 1000 people in Australia. With the expansion there will be many more.
Given Amazon’s scale, the risk is that its work practices will not only be brought into Australia, but that its competitors will be under pressure to do the same to keep up. Many tasks are designed to be performed in seconds.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union (SDAEU), which covers retail, warehouse and fast food industries, are now examining Amazon’s work practices in other countries. They want to ensure that Australian standards will be maintained.