Reportage. The company deserted a meeting with union representatives and then tried to lock them out of the warehouse. Workers called an impromptu strike, and politicians lined up to criticize the company.

Amazon meets with unions—after police intervene

Wednesday was a tense day at Amazon’s hub in Castel San Giovanni, Italy, the large shipment center that was the setting of a high-profile strike on Black Friday. The company did not show up to the meeting with the unions that had been agreed at the Prefect’s office, and the employees organized a spontaneous strike in response, with the union leaders at the gates. The multinational even tried to prevent the access of union members on the premises for assemblies that had already been planned, and the intervention of the police and military police was necessary; they ended up accompanying the workers’ representatives inside.

“This morning [Wednesday] we were dutifully present at the office of the Prefect of Piacenza, after having agreed to the umpteenth request to change the date of this meeting with Amazon,” recounts Fiorenzo Molinari, the secretary of FILCAMS CGIL Piacenza. “The company did not show up to the meeting, and showed contempt for the workers and the Italian State.” And even more: “Amazon did not want to let the unions in to conduct assemblies that had already been agreed upon and planned,” Molinari continued, “and we were able to do them only thanks to the police, which accompanied us inside. It is clear that Amazon wants to play on a field without any rules, where the only law that applies is the rule of the strongest.”

Molinari’s other colleagues who were there at the prefecture for the meeting, from FISASCAT CISL, UILTUCS and UGL Terziario, were just as angry. Pierangelo Raineri, the secretary of FIST CISL, called the attitude of the e-commerce giant “inexcusable.”

“It is necessary,” he said, “for Amazon to open discussions with the representatives of the unions on the organization of work, regarding shifts, schedules and flexibility, and on the issue of variable pay linked to the company’s results—all issues to be settled within a collective contract for the whole sector.”

Paolo Capone from UGL Terziario announced possible new strikes in short order, particularly during these days, the most crucial for the shipment of Christmas gifts.

The company, however, didn’t seem to flinch. It stated it had not come to the meeting because of “too much pressure” on this matter, and it told its side of the story in a statement that sounded almost like it was mocking the unions: “We are always ready to cooperate with the authorities in order to provide information about our activities. For this reason, last week we confirmed to the Prefect of Piacenza our willingness to meet with him today [Wednesday]. At Amazon, we are committed to building a continuous dialogue and positive cooperation with all our employees, and to creating a caring and inclusive environment.“

The statements by various politicians were all unanimous against Amazon. “This company has to understand that in Italy there are very specific laws and rules regarding labor relations, which, before anything else, must be respected,” said Nicola Fratoianni of Liberi e Uguali (Free and Equal). “It’s time for the government to take a strong and clear initiative regarding Amazon.”

According to Undersecretary to the Prime Minister Paola De Micheli (Italian Democratic Party), “the company’s choice to not show up to the meeting is unacceptable and shows a lack of respect towards our institutions.” She concludes by saying she “updated the labor minister, Giuliano Poletti, on the situation, and we reserve the right to evaluate possible initiatives to re-establish dialogue.”

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