Amazon breaking Australian law on safety & workers’ rights

Amazon has broken the law in Australia by failing to train workers on safety and by refusing to allow union officials to talk to workers, calling the police on two occasions, a Senate inquiry will hear today.

Workers delivering packages for Amazon Flex were engaged for months last year without receiving safety training mandated by NSW regulations. Training only began when the TWU complained to Amazon.

Amazon also called the police on two occasions in May last year when TWU officials tried to access the Moorebank distribution centre in NSW to talk to workers, despite officials giving prior notice and bringing right of entry cards.

On occasions when TWU did gain entry, officials observed workers loading up personal cars to deliver packages, in some cases where it was not possible to see out the windows. Workers reported earning between $10-$15 per hour after costs are deducted, well below minimum rates. Amazon regularly unfairly sacks Amazon Flex workers without warning or the chance to appeal.

The TWU will reveal details of the legal breaches and poor pay and conditions during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Job Security. Amazon will also give evidence at today’s hearing.

TWU NSW Branch Secretary Richard Olsen said Amazon had entered the Australian market and trashed laws.

“Amazon has broken our laws, on safety training and workers’ rights. For months it was failing to provide mandated and approved ‘Blue Card’ safety training to its transport workers in Amazon Flex in contravention of NSW regulations. This training is vital in ensuring workers are aware of the risks to their health and safety, know how to deal with incidents and emergencies and where to report them. Amazon also refused entry to our officials, even calling the police to have them removed. This is a blatant trashing of our laws by one of the biggest and richest companies in the world,” he said.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Federal Government had allowed Amazon to drag down standards in road transport by refusing to regulate.

“Amazon is dragging down standards in an industry already in crisis. There is no system in place which can examine Amazon’s legal breaches, listen to what its workers are saying and force change. Drivers and other road users are dying in far too many crashes across our industry because companies like Amazon are breaking the law. When drivers are denied training, denied rights and underpaid minimum rates this increases the risks of serious incidents such as crashes involving death and injury. A major player like Amazon which is growing at an exponential rate in Australia and breaking the law will make the crisis in safety in our industry far worse. We call on the Federal Government to act urgently and regulate to lift standards,” Kaine said.

Road transport is Australia’s deadliest industry. One in three workers killed on the job is a transport worker, with 183 transport workers killed between 2015-19, according to Safe Work Australia.

In the five years to 2020, 885 people died in truck crashes, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics. Five delivery riders died while working last year.

The Federal Government tore down an independent tribunal five years ago which was investigating risks to safety in road transport and which was mandated to hold companies like Amazon to account over poor safety standards.

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