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AMAZONFLEX MODEL OF WAGE THEFT, UNFAIR SACKINGS MUST BE ABOLISHED: TWU

September 6, 2021

An ABC exposé revealing wage theft, unsafe conditions and unfair sackings at AmazonFlex has prompted the TWU to up its demands for the Federal Government to urgently implement Senate recommendations to regulate transport supply chains.

Evidence provided by the TWU supported the claims made by two drivers interviewed by the ABC of workers ripped off, pressured to rush, and penalised or threatened with the sack for refusing parcels which would dangerously block their vision while driving.

As reported by the ABC yesterday, Ryan McBain was sacked with no explanation, and Alex Ayliff received five ‘violation warnings’ after returning parcels he was unable to deliver safely within the timeframe allocated.

The ABC investigation followed evidence given in April by the TWU and SDA at a Senate Inquiry on insecure work. The unions revealed intimidation and sacking of workers over speaking to union representatives, including the police being called on TWU officials with lawful rights to enter the AmazonFlex premises to investigate safety.

A Senate report tabled on Wednesday recommends the Federal Government “establishes an independent body” to “set universal, binding standards” in road transport. Regulation of this sort would eliminate gig economy models of exploitation and high dependency at the likes of AmazonFlex and Uber.

Around 15,000 transport workers are heading for strike action in the coming weeks over attacks on good, permanent jobs as major transport operators try to strip bare labour costs to compete with AmazonFlex.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said implementing the Senate recommendations is a national priority.

“The deadly recipe of wage theft, control and threat of the sack has been laid bare at AmazonFlex. Worker Alex Ayliff using AmazonFlex as his only source of income was left with under $18,000 in annual earnings after expenses. Workers like Ryan McBain are dismissed by a bot with no warning, no explanation and no right to challenge the sacking.

“Transport operators like Toll and FedEx are floundering under pressure to compete with AmazonFlex’s sham contracting model. It is why Australia is facing weeks of disruption to food, alcohol and fuel supplies as workers are forced to fight threats of mass outsourcing.

“Amazon is known the world over as a heinous corporate empire which exercises high control, curtails workers’ rights, and applies undue pressure to avoid workers collectivising or forming unions. The Australian Government had plenty of warning that Amazon’s entry to Australia would drag down labour standards and exploit workers, but it failed to put in place enforceable minimum standards to protect our industrial relations system.

“‘The Amazon effect’ is ripping through the economy and must be abolished. Transport workers are straining every sinew to block the sledge hammer headed for their jobs, but they need the backing of a tribunal to bind the likes of Amazon and Uber to fair, safe standards. The solution has been outlined in ten clear recommendations by a Senate select committee following an in-depth examination of Australia’s deadliest industry, road transport. The Federal Government must immediately respond to these calls,” he said.

Amazon announced record profits up 224% to $US8 billion in just the last quarter.

While retailers globally have boomed and demand on transport has been higher than ever, transport operators are experiencing a squeeze on rates. Last month, Toll’s financial report outlined the tight margins transport companies are forced to operate under by major retailers, manufacturers and oil companies through their low-cost contracts.