Trade Union Access to Workplaces — [Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 4th June 2019.

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Photo of Faisal Rashid Faisal Rashid Labour, Warrington South 4:30 pm, 4th June 2019

Absolutely; that is an excellent point. I could not agree more.

Union members from the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union have recounted stories like that of Mohamed’s, a worker from north London, who was excited at the prospect of working alongside his colleagues to improve basic things at work, like getting his shifts 10 days in advance so that he could plan his life. Because of those efforts, he was informed by the management that he was banned from every McDonald’s store in the area. I note that in its statement McDonald’s did not dispute that account.

In its response, Amazon stated:

“If you want a true assessment of our working conditions just register for a tour at one of our fulfilment centres.”

A registered, company-sanctioned tour—effectively a corporate PR exercise—would hardly paint an accurate picture of working conditions at Amazon. Let the figures speak for themselves: from 2015 to 2018, a shocking 600 ambulance calls were made to Amazon warehouses. I have visited an Amazon warehouse in my own constituency in the past; the technology on show was indeed very impressive, but that hardly gives an accurate account of what it would be like to work a 12-hour shift in the warehouse. Nevertheless, I am happy to take Amazon up on its offer of another visit. Would I be able to bring representatives from the GMB union with me? Until now, many of them have consistently been denied access to the workplace.

It is not just Amazon and McDonald’s; these practices are widespread, particularly in poorly paid jobs. In its recently published report on InterContinental Hotels Group, Unite the union documented a workplace culture of fear and bullying, with management pressurising low-paid staff into working for eight to 10 days straight. IHG employees and subcontracted employees have been routinely denied the right to freedom of association and have stood little chance of exercising their right to collective bargaining.