AMAZON has been warned it “must engage positively with workers who organise into a trade union” as it opened its first fulfilment centre in Dublin.
Seán McDonagh, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, said the online retailer’s expansion in Ireland could potentially have a negative impact on other carriers, most notably, An Post.
“The Tánaiste welcomed the extension of Amazon’s presence in Ireland and the creation of jobs in their new fulfilment centre,” he said.
“We hope that Amazon will justify this welcome by respecting industrial relations mechanisms in Ireland and will engage positively with workers who organise into a trade union.”
He said it is well known that Amazon does not have a positive history globally, in terms of good industrial relations and its treatment of workers.
“It is of major concern that the company is anti-trade union,” he said.
“We are working with the ICTU and our international affiliates in UniGlobal to address our concerns.”
He said the CWU is aware that Amazon workers in other countries, including the US, are organising through unions to defend their rights and interests.
“As the primary trade union representing workers in the logistics and delivery sectors, the CWU welcomes Amazon workers into the union and looks forward to assisting them in dealing with the full range of employment and workplace issues,” he said.
“The potential for an operator of this scale to have a downward influence on existing pay and conditions in the industry is of particular concern.
“The expansion of Amazon’s operation in Ireland could potentially have a negative impact on other carriers, most notably on the national carrier An Post, which throughout Covid demonstrated it is an essential service, supporting small businesses, particularly in rural Ireland, and in the economy as a whole.”
He said there are no guarantees that deliveries will not include a reliance on the gig economy and low paid contractors.
“The CWU would wish to talk to Amazon on a range of issues that will benefit their employees and contractors and ensure that the company respects the industrial relations machinery that we have in the state,” he said.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company is delighted to have opened the doors of its first fulfilment centre in Dublin this week “creating new roles and offering competitive wages, excellent benefits and a modern, safe and engaging work environment for our employees”.
She said employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union.
“They always have,” she said.
“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees.
“Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes—quickly.”
She said that type of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle.
“The benefits of direct relationships between managers and employees can’t be overstated—these relationships allow every employee’s voice to be heard, not just the voices of a select few,” she said.
“We’ve made great progress in recent years and months in important areas like pay and safety. We already offer competitive pay, comprehensive benefits and opportunities for career growth, all while working in a modern, safe and engaging work environment. There are plenty of things that we can keep doing better, both in our fulfilment centres and in our corporate spaces for employees, and that's our focus—to keep getting better every day.”
Faster delivery times are expected for customers across Ireland when the Baldonnell centre is fully operational.
Around 500 new jobs are due to be created, with wages starting at €13.50 an hour.