Amazon, cyber slavery

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After mega-tax evasion, cyber-slavery. Amazon Prime-ggia on all fronts.

Slavery in the food supply chain (and the globalization of exploitation)

When we talk about slavery in the food supply chain, thoughts run to developing countries. To palm oil production and fisheries in Southeast Asia, cocoa crops in West Africa, and carnauba wax in Northeast Brazil (the one that later ends up in Haribo candies).

Slavery in Europe can be traced back to the dusty, sun-drenched fields of the South, in Italy and Spain, where migrants are exploited to harvest fruit and vegetables. And the only ones stemming the havoc, with rare exceptions, are the most responsible operators, in industry and large-scale retail. Those that define and apply special protocols to guarantee the sustainability of the supply chain. Such as Coop Italia, which has adopted the SA 8000 standard since 1998.

Amazon, cyber slavery

Young Alan Selby, a journalist and marathon runner, worked undercover in Amazon’s newest warehouse at Tilbury in Essex, England. Five weeks in the immediate shipping centrifuge. ‘Click to receive now,’ and the cyber-slave like a hamster runs to get the goods to hesitate in a matter of seconds. (1)

The system monitors and times, parcel handling times as well as pickups. And cyber-slaves must always remain on guard, at attention, never for a moment sitting, not even if the order is not triggered. Under grueling shifts, 55 hours these days, grinding out miles under the artificial lights of h24 day-lit warehouses. Even the young marathon runner goes into a slump, let alone the others. Ambulances at pit-stop, for exhausted hamsters.

The climate is ominous, take it or leave it. But the protest rises and aggregates, in Italy and Germany, right under Black Friday. It is workers’ strike, about 60 percent according to the unions.

To expose the exploitation, labors and usuries of each. Physical joint and mental wear and tear from stress. Behind the threat of non-renewals of super-precarious contracts.

‘Social conflict is there but fails to have a collective character. There is great fragmentation, even competition among workers. As the cases of Amazon and Ikea show, companies go so far as to blackmail workers: either you accept their conditions or you don’t work.’ (Maurizio Landini to il Manifesto, 2.12.17)

The U.S. giant’s response follows the ultra-liberal script. Strikers are replaced with reserve temps, meetings with unions postponed until the following month. Rather, the idea seems to be to meet workers individually, leveraging individual weaknesses, rather than confronting their representations. Divide and conquer.

Safety at work, the opinion of the labor lawyer

We questioned a labor lawyer, Luigi Corrias of the Milan Bar. ‘The news about the Amazon situation is not so surprising,’ Corrias says, ‘because even today, in our country, the protection of safety and health in the workplace is neither effective nor widespread.’

‘The regulatory framework on safety is absolutely incisive, since health is a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the Italian Republic, in Articles 2 and 32. Added to this are the protections offered by laws such as Legislative Decree 81/2008, on workplace safety, and the Criminal Code. With Articles 431 and 451, which apply in cases of accidents at work.’ (Luigi Corrias, lawyer)

The employer‘s duties are also spelled out in the Civil Code, in Article 2087. ‘The entrepreneur is obliged to take such measures in the conduct of the business as are necessary, according to the particularities of the work, experience and technique, to protect the physical integrity and moral personality of the workers.’


Such legislation may apply in cases such as Amazon’s
‘, continues attorney Luigi Corrias. ‘Situations of serious, prolonged and unlawful employer behavior-for example, the imposition of grueling shifts, the absence of breaks or rest periods, the continuous obligation to work overtime even on nights and holidays, etc. – may constitute violations of safety regulations. Or comunquedel civil duty to ensure safety, placed on the employer, and cause harm to the health of workers.

However, this system of protections is threatened by the legislative reforms of recent years, which have made it easier to resort to employment relationships characterized by widespread precariousness. ISTAT data show how-despite the abolition of Art. 18 of the Workers’ Statute operated by the Jobs Act (2) – the fixed-term relationship now accounts for 80 percent of new employment contracts (along with other forms of flexibility, such as labor administration, etc.).

Thus it can be understood why workers, especially precarious workers, can be induced to accept very onerous working conditions, even bordering on the norm (or even in violation of legal and contractual regulations). And desist from promoting the protection of their rights in the face of the risk of losing their only source of livelihood .

Conclusions

Amazon’s cyber-slavery, like other forms of worker exploitation in the food supply chain, cannot and should not be tolerated any longer.

Solidarity is the only way forward. And if Jeff Bezos does not learn to respect the value of labor, consumAtors will have to help him understand. From Black Friday to Red Friday, boycott to educate.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Cf. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/timed-toilet-breaks-impossible-targets-11587888
(2) Legislative Decree. 23/2015