Unionized Amazon employees in Quebec?

For the first time in Quebec, Amazon employees could be unionized. A campaign began at the Lachine distribution center last week, learned The newspaper.

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“I’ve never been so excited since I’ve been living in Quebec,” says Justin* in an interview with The newspaper last Wednesday.

In a few hours, the Lachine warehouse unionization campaign will begin. Employees of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) will go on site to encourage workers to sign a union membership card.

“I can’t wait to see the reaction of the managers. They are going to be so nervous,” he thinks.

For the past few weeks, a dozen workers, all recent immigrants, have been working behind the scenes to create a union, possibly Amazon’s first in Canada and only the second in all of North America.

On the menu of their demands: better regulation of workplace injuries, more respect for the workforce and better wages.

“I think the union is the only way to put pressure on Amazon and change things,” Judge Denis*.

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A lot of pressure

Last year, in the documentary The Reverse of Amazon, our Bureau of Investigation revealed the working conditions at the Lachine center, which opened in July 2020. The testimonies collected in recent days show that employees still feel just as much pressure, in particular because of the real-time evaluation of their yield.

“They use performance statistics to blackmail. If there are few packages, they will leave the employees with less good performance on the floor and send the others on break,” says Justin.

He says that a yield 5% below the warehouse average is enough to get a formal warning. On the third warning, an employee can be fired.

“A lot of people left because they injured their knees, their backs, reports Éric*. There is so much pressure. The managers treat us like robots, but politely. They tell us: ‘I love working with you, you are brilliant’”.

At Amazon, employees earn between $17 and $19 per hour. According to the CSN, for similar but unionized warehouse jobs, employees earn at least $23 an hour.

A hard fight

Amazon does not hide its opposition to the project. “As a company, we don’t believe that unions are the best solution for our employees,” says Amazon Canada communications director Ryma Boussoufa, adding that “employees are free to join a union”.

Justin says that as soon as word of a union spread, the bosses started acting differently.

“They brought in executives from Ottawa and Toronto who asked the employees if they were satisfied and who said that a union cost money,” he says.

In addition, the executives would be more smiling and open to comments for a few weeks.

“It will be difficult, admits Éric. There are always new people who don’t really know what it’s like to work for Amazon. It’s less inviting for them to sign membership cards. »

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* Fictitious names

Québec : 39,3 %

Ontario: 26,5 %

United States : 11,6 %

Only one union in 28 years


The big boss of the American e-commerce giant, Jeff Bezos.

Photo AFP

The big boss of the American e-commerce giant, Jeff Bezos.

Amazon has resisted union impulses in North America for more than 25 years.

Le 1is Last April, JFK8 activists in Staten Island, New York, won the vote to form a union. A first for Amazon in the United States, since the company was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos.

“I think it could start a chain reaction from one warehouse to another,” union lawyer Eric Milner said on July 1.is avril.

But, within days of the vote, the company challenged its validity before the US Labor Relations Board.

This is one of the battles waged by the web giant against the unions. In Alabama last year, employees overwhelmingly rejected the idea of ​​joining a union.

However, a new vote will have to take place because the company was blamed by the United States Labor Relations Board for interfering in the voting process.

Momentum

In Canada, only one warehouse, on the outskirts of Edmonton, took formal steps to form a union last fall.

The attempt failed due to lack of signatures. According to the local union, Amazon inflated the number of employees to prevent them from reaching the 40% signatures required to vote on forming a union. A new application was filed last week.

In Montreal, trade unionists feel momentum. “It never happens that we do unionization by distributing flyers at the entrance, but there is a momentum with what is happening in the United States,” explains Jean-Michel Thériault, unionization advisor at the CSN.

If the union has the support of more than 50% of employees, it will automatically be recognized by the Administrative Labor Tribunal. No vote is required, which makes Quebec fertile ground for unionization.

Walmart’s example

Moreover, it was in Jonquière that Walmart had its only unionized store, in 2004.

The company quickly shut it down after the workers reorganized, which was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court of Canada nearly ten years later.

Despite this legal precedent and the confidentiality of the process, Amazon employees in Lachine are afraid, says Denis*.

“The employees are newcomers, they are afraid of losing their jobs, that the warehouse will close and even that it will compromise their visa [de voter pour un syndicat] he says.

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