POLITICS
05/17/2020 22:23 EDT

NDP MPs Question Why Feds Are Working With Amazon

The online retail giant announced the end of its coronavirus pandemic pay incentives for workers.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this Dec. 17, 2019, file photo, Amazon packages move along a conveyor at an Amazon warehouse facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

NDP MPs are questioning a contract between the federal government and Amazon, which announced it is withdrawing worker benefits implemented during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This is one of the shittiest companies on the planet,” said Charlie Angus, who represents Timmins-James Bay. “You can’t find a better example of the abusive practices of labour in the 21st century than Amazon.

The online retail giant confirmed Saturday it is withdrawing benefits such as an extra $2 per hour for Canadian warehouse workers and double overtime, which had been brought in during the pandemic.

We were all gobsmacked when we heard Trudeau signed a deal with Amazon.NDP MP Charlie Angus

We are grateful to associates supporting customers during a time of increased demand, and are returning to our regular pay and overtime wages at the end of the month,” spokesperson Kelly Cheeseman told the Canadian Press.

Angus pointed out the federal government had signed a contract earlier this month with Amazon, to distribute health supplies across Canada during the pandemic.

“We were all gobsmacked when we heard Trudeau signed a deal with Amazon, which essentially privatizes the health-care delivery system in Canada,” Angus told HuffPost Canada in an interview. 

For Angus, Amazon pulling  pay incentives is just the latest in a series of controversial practices.

Watch: Activists leave a message outside home of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Story continues after video

 

Amazon saw a surge of orders at the outset of the pandemic, and the company, which is known for one-day deliveries, put the pressure on their warehouses. Workers in Canada and the U.S. have complained about over-crowded work spaces and minimum pay. 

“The fact that in the middle of a pandemic, a vice-president quit in disgust because of the treatment of workers, who were genuinely frightened that they could get sick or their co-workers could die, says everything about Amazon,” said Angus, referring to Tim Bray, a Canadian software developer who resigned from his executive position.

Bray wrote a blog post explaining he “quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.”

Amazon has repeatedly said it’s spent hundreds of millions of dollars on COVID-19-related safety measures in its warehouses. The company initially planned on ending pay incentives by the end of April, but extended the program to May 30.

Angus’ NDP colleague Matthew Green is also uncomfortable with Amazon’s reach in Canada. The MP for Hamilton Centre called the situation “class war.” Amid the pandemic, studies came out suggesting that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is set to become the world’s first trillionaire.

“We need to stop mollycoddling companies like Amazon and cutting extensive deals with them just because they have lobby networks,” said Angus. “They are not the solution, they are the problem.”

The lack of transparency in the Amazon agreement also bothers Angus. The federal government hasn’t disclosed specific details about the contract, PressProgress reported.

“If this deal is such a good deal for Canadians — then lets us know what the terms of the contract are,” said Angus. “Otherwise it looks like a sweetheart deal with a company that treats its workers shitty.”

“Canadians are not going to be better off just because we got a parcel one day ahead of something that could have been done in Canada.”

Angus, like others, have proposed that the Canadian government should have worked with Canada Post instead, a Crown corporation with unionized workers. However, Canada Post has admitted its infrastructure is struggling to keep up with orders during the pandemic.