July 15 is the Prime Day, a summer sale peak at Amazon. At Amazon warehouses in Poland, this means a 50-hour working week and possible new records of parcels sent to Germany in 24 hours. On that day, there will be protests, rallies and strikes in various parts of the world. The first strike in Amazon warehouse in the USA, in Minneapolis, gives us all courage. As warehouse workers, we feel solidarity hearing that this strike is supported by workers and technicians from the Amazon headquarters in Seattle! The Amazon workers in Germany we have learned to be consistent and stay strong. Many of them are unionized or active in works councils and have been on strike on and off for more than 5 years. The will go on strike again on July 15 and 16, and this time also Amazon workers in France!
Workers in Poland are part of this global movement fighting for workers' dignity: against temporary employment, against the digital system of control and against poor wages. Meanwhile, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, is sending rockets into space. Amazon workers in different countries have similar problems and demands. When we demand “Make everyone blue!” – like in Minneapolis –, that means we want permanent contracts. In Poland, we demand “Stop the rat race!”, which is directed against the work pressure. We have been supporting each other already for some time: We visit each other to discuss common problems and actions, and since 2015 we have been organizing every half year Cross-border Meetings of Amazon Workers. The next meeting will happen in Leipzig from September 27 to 29, 2019 – and all Amazon workers are invited!
Amazon does not want to listen to the voice of the organized workers. Regardless of the country, we hear the same slogan: “We prefer direct communication with our associates.” We heard the same banalities in talks with representatives of Amazon Poland. We know that when we are one-on-one with HR or a manager, Amazon will use all kinds of legal tricks, rely on our dependence on wage labor and regular income or put pressure on the weakest of us to make everyone afraid to strive for change. Amazon's business model is based on the labor of those who have few rights or opportunities around the world: agency workers, workers from smaller towns and villages, migrants, and people with disabilities. Amazon squeezes them and permanently hires and fires so that none of us can feel secure.
This has to change! We must show that we are not alone. Around 600,000 people currently work in Amazon around the world. Some of us are active in trade unions, works councils, collaborate with solidarity groups, or defend colleagues in court. Others are slowing down work or going on sick-leave when the pace of work is unbearable. So we are not alone! Instead of one-on-one with Amazon, we need to organize a critical mass that will stop exploitation, the crazy speed of work and the insecure job situation, because it is us who create the wealth that few benefit from!
In Poland, we continue to develop this movement by starting a strike referendum on July 15, 2019, on Prime Day. The decision to do so was made by the unions Inicjatywa Pracownicza and Solidarnosc together after Amazon did not fulfill our demands during negotiations and mediation since May 2019. Our demands are:
1. Decent wages for all employees. We demand an increase of the basic hourly rate to at least PLN 25 after tax for the employees of level 1 (T1), equal wages in all Polish warehouses; and regular collective negotiations on wages with the trade unions (today Amazon do not negotiate the level of wages).
2. Fair employee evaluations. We demand a change of the work regulations including a stop of feedbacks, the indefinite suspension of the procedure of dismissing workers for not meeting rates, and negotiations on a new procedure with unions.
3. Stable employment. We demand direct employment, and end to employment through temporary agencies and no more fixed-term contracts.
Amazon unilaterally broke off mediation despite our will to continue the talks as part of the labor dispute. At the same time, Amazon informed us that they want to continue talks, but outside the collective dispute. Amazon simply got scared of the formal options offered by the collective labor dispute and of the fact that workers will want to use them all. That is why from the very beginning Amazon tried to finish it as soon as possible. We will not be fooled! We take the next step and, as part of the collective dispute, we are organizing a strike ballot. Other workers already put up stickers in toilets or circulated the slogan on the internet „We all go on sick leave!”. If we stand in solidarity, use creative forms of protest and mutual inspiration, we have a chance to make Amazon give in, not just in one country, but throughout the world!
The strike ballot in Poland will start in the FC POZ1 on July 15 and continue on July 16 at WRO1 and WRO2 near Wrocław, and on July 17 at SZZ1 near Szczecin and KTW1 in Sosnowiec (Katowice). Workers will also be able to vote online. Due to the fact that 14.000 employees currently work for Amazon Poland, at the moment the ballot is planned to last until September this year with the possibility of extending it. This gives us the opportunity to be present in front of warehouses all over Poland in the coming months, reach out to people and develop our struggle.
We wish all those who are planning protest actions on July 15 and in the upcoming days a lot of courage and strength! It is us who, through our joint actions, are paving the way for a new world, which is not governed by the cruel logic of profit but by the principle of justice and solidarity beyond the separation into warehouses, professions and borders!
Inicjatywa Pracownicza/Worker's Initiative – union at Amazon Poland (14/07/2019)