Spanish Amazon strike coincides with Prime Day sale

Published On July 18, 2018 | By amychen | International, News

The Amazon Fulfillment Centre in Madrid, the site of several protests against the corporation this week. (Andrea Comas, Reuters)

Amy Chen

Spanish Amazon workers are on the third day of their strike at the San Fernando warehouse near Madrid in a dispute over workers’ rights.

The strike action took place between July 16 and 18 and coincided with the e-commerce company’s Prime Day promotion and sale, where items were discounted for Amazon Prime members. Members of the subscription-based service from around the globe received benefits in shipping, deals and streaming movies, TV and music.

In a video posted by Alberto Rodríguez, a member of Spain’s Congress of Deputies, the second day of the strike involved the police. “The police charge against the workers of @AmazonEnLucha preventing their constitutional right to strike,” he wrote in part. “Shame.”

Rodríguez also posted a photo of what appeared to be a shirt stained with blood.

“The emergence of international corporations was a game changer. How do you organize workers in different countries working for the same company? Very difficult,” said Laurel MacDowell, a University of Toronto professor of history.

Amazon was still able to increase sales during the strike, which was proliferated by the popularity of Prime Day. MacDowell said the shift in technology and accessibility to the internet works as a double-edged sword.

While social media can mobilize Canadians to help Amazon workers located in Spain, the same websites can be used to promote Amazon’s deals, she said.

“The thing about social media is it can be a bit fickle. One day they’re supporting one thing, and one day they’re supporting another,” MacDowell said. “But it does catch the attention of massive numbers of people much more quickly and with much less physical labour. So in theory, it’s important. But on the other hand the company also has access to this kind of media.

“Amazon is both a very successful online company and an exploiter of its employees,” she said.

“The workers seem to be using short-term strikes and have started a campaign to ask consumers to boycott Amazon. But how such tactics bring the company to the table is unclear,” MacDowell said. “Unless the workers can hurt the company’s bottom line, Amazon is unlikely to deal with them.”

Workers in Germany and Italy had previous staged labour disruptions at Amazon, and the company said it expected a fraction of 12,000 workers in Germany to strike, which won’t impact deliveries. Amazon also said its workers were paid a fair wage, and permanent workers earned more per hour after two years.

“We believe Amazon’s Fulfillment Centre jobs are excellent jobs providing a great place to learn skills to start and further develop a career,” Amazon told Reuters in an email.

Feedvisor, a revenue intelligence company, estimated spending skyrocketed 89 per cent in the first 12 hours of Prime Day compared to last year.

Despite technological issues on the Amazon website when the sale began on Monday — which led shoppers to error pages with pictures of various dogs — the company said the first 10 hours of the sale were “bigger than ever.”

“It wasn’t all a walk in the (dog) park, we had a ruff start,” Amazon said in a statement on Tuesday where it didn’t explain the reasons behind the technical glitches.

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