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  • A general view of an Amazon distribution center during

    A general view of an Amazon distribution center during 'Black Friday' in Madrid, Spain, 24 November 2017. | Photo: EFE

Published 18 April 2018

Amazon says the layoffs are due to low demand, but union officials have accused the company victimization.

The General Confederation of Labour Union (CGT) in Spain has condemned the dismissal of more than 100 temporal workers at Amazon's largest logistics center in the country and accused the company of victimizing workers striking for better working conditions.

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Amazon workers have organized strike day since March in protest of new conditions that significantly reduce their earnings and benefits. Some temporal workers agreed to work during the March 21 and 22 strike due to possible reprisals, and now those fears have been confirmed.

Ahead of the next strike day Friday, Amazon decided to not renew the temporary contracts of over a hundred workers in their San Fernando de Henares, something that has no precedents within the company and that the CGT fears are politically motivated, according to Marc Blanes, member of the company's workers committee.

The temporal employees had been working “between three and sixteen months with us, they were partners,” on contracts that lasted “a week or fifteen days,” said Blanes. The employees didn't get their contracts renewed due to possible reprisals for their support of the March strike.

“Last Friday uncertainty was general because we needed to come on Monday [to the outsourcing agencies that sub-hired them], and we had no previous notice at all. We feared the worst,” one of the former temporal workers told Spanish daily El Español.

Employees have also denounced that the company usually gives an early notice when there's going to be layoffs, but that this time “silence reigned.”

“Not Friday night, not Saturday, neither Sunday: it's been this morning. The Whatsapp groups are on fire because our partners were confirming their dismissals,” a worker told El Español.

One of the most affected groups were the temporal workers on the night shift. About 25 employees got their non-renewal letter by email.

The opposition to the new contract conditions that Amazon is trying to impose led to a 48-hour strike in March, which was supported by 98 percent of the staff. The center, the biggest in Spain, has about 1,100 permanent workers and about 900 temporary ones. Despite their uncertain working situation, temporal workers also supported the strike.

In their defense, the e-commerce firm said they hire temporal workers to handle high demand seasons, and then turn their contracts into permanent ones if possible. “Precisely due to this seasonal nature, it's not possible to turn all this kind of contracts [into indefinite ones]. Since the beginning of our operations in Spain, we have turned hundreds of temporal contracts into permanent ones,” said a spokesperson of the company, adding that this happened due to a drop in demand.

But workers that have been longer in the company argue that such layoffs are unusual in the season, and dismiss Amazon declarations.

The employees denounced the company is trying to cheapen labor, eliminate guarantees for a salary increase and protection in case of temporary disability.

Initially, Amazon said all rights were going to be respected but later was proposed to adopt the Sectoral Agreement of Logistics and Courier Services of Madrid, which would reduce the employees' rights.

New employees would earn between 2,000 and 4,500 euros a year, and current ones would get their incomes frozen indefinitely, extra-hour payments would get significantly reduced and sick days payments would be cut in half.

The last collective contract between Amazon and the workers expired in 2016, and a new one has been postponed until a new agreement is reached between the parts.

The unions representing the workers in Amazon called for a new day of protest next Friday in Madrid, starting from the Legazpi Square and ending at Amazon's central offices in Spain.

Meanwhile, the workers' organizations will meet with their counterparts in Italy to plan joint actions. Douglas Harper, a Workers' Commissions (CC.OO.) delegate in the San Fernando center, said they are considering the possibility of staging protests and strikes on Amazon's peak sales days, including Prime Day and Black Friday.


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