Government should force Amazon to improve working conditions say UK workers’ unions

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UK trade unions have called on the government to force Amazon to improve working conditions at its warehouses as Prime Day 2020 approaches.

The GMB and TUC issued a joint statement to the UK government urging it to leverage the £630 million worth of state contracts it holds with Amazon to force its hand and “level up working conditions”.

Amazon is understood to have secured £23 million in state contracts since the pandemic started, including nearly £10 million to help develop the national NHS test and trace app.

According to the workers’ unions these contracts make the government clients of Amazon, therefore enabling them to strongarm it into improving conditions.

Alongside this, they have encouraged the government to use and upcoming employment bill to enact a number of new laws including the banning of zero hours contracts, better union access to workplaces and stronger rules to protect supply chain workers.

READ MORE: Hundreds of Amazon workers to protest today in biggest mass protest yet over COVID-19 policies

The unions allege that Amazon workers are exposed to gruelling working conditions, surveillance and unsafe environments, seeing ambulances called out to 14 British warehouses around 600 times between 2015 and 2018.

“This report is a warning to the public sector that it can no longer turn a blind eye to Amazon’s exploitative practices and appalling health and safety record,” the GMB’s Mick Rix said.

“It’s time for UK government and safety regulators to either tell Amazon’s management to put their house in order or send them packing.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy added: “The government will not tolerate the exploitation of vulnerable workers for commercial gain.

“We have committed to establishing a single enforcement body for employment rights to provide a clearer route for workers to raise a complain and get support, while providing a consistent approach to enforcement.”

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