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Amazon ‘doesn’t deserve public cash’

TRADE unions are urging the government to “level up” workers’ rights across the country by using its huge purchasing power to improve employment conditions and ban zero-hours contracts.

Makig the call, the TUC and GMB revealed that online giant Amazon was awarded national and local government contracts worth up to £630 million between 2015 and this year, including work related to test and trace valued at £8.3m.

Unions said that reports of employment practices at Amazon describe gruelling conditions, unrealistic productivity targets, surveillance, bogus self-employment and a refusal to engage with unions unless forced.

The TUC said that the Employment Bill, which is awaiting its second reading in Parliament, was a “golden opportunity” for the government to clamp down on poor working practices.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is a key test for the government’s levelling-up agenda.

“If ministers are serious about improving lives, they must help ‘level up’ working conditions at places like Amazon.

“Public contracts should not reward bad working practices. The government must use its purchasing power to ensure people are given dignity at work and a wage they can live on.

“And the government must get on with introducing its long-awaited Employment Bill. This is a golden opportunity to boost rights and pay.”

GMB national officer Mick Rix said: “Amazon is trousering hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash through public-sector contracts while paying a pittance in tax on their vast profits. It’s beyond parody. 

“Meanwhile, workers in Amazon warehouses are being taken away in ambulances, forced to go to the toilet using bins and bottles and are now contracting Covid while packed into warehouses like sardines.”

Amazon claimed that unions were painting a “false picture” of  conditions in its warehouses, adding it was working closely with the government to deliver Covid-19 testing kits and not charging for this service.

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