20:20 GMT20 October 2020
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    The development comes as the leaders of European trade unions asked the European Commission to investigate whether Amazon's activities targeting its employees are legal. The company has drawn harsh criticism over its treatment of workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

    European legislators have written an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding answers to the company's job offerings, which suggest that the e-commerce giant is spying on its employees. According to the now deleted job offerings, Amazon was looking for intelligence analysts to monitor various kinds of "threats" to Amazon. The list included – geopolitical crises, protests – but the company mostly focused on "labour organising", which appeared next to such categories as "terrorism" and "hate groups".

    According to the job postings, candidates would also have to monitor "hostile political leaders". Among the preferred qualifications were French and Spanish languages skills suggesting that European employees could be Amazon's target.

    In a letter to Jeff Bezos EU legislators said the company’s job offerings caused great concern among them.

    "Does Amazon’s monitoring intentionally target trade unionists, Amazon workers, as well as political representatives (including ourselves) who could possibly express criticism of its activities? There are increasing warnings about your company's anti-union policy. On our continent, workers and trade unionists from several European countries testified that they experience pressures preventing them from organising, that their demands fall on deaf ears, and that they live under permanent fear of firings and the threat of unemployment".
    "We represent countries where democracy and freedom of expression cannot be challenged by any company – not even by Amazon. We are its guarantors. The exponential growth of Amazon's profits since the beginning of the global pandemic does not allow you to exonerate yourself from respecting fundamental legal principles", EU lawmakers wrote in the letter.

    They legislators also said they were worried about the company monitoring "hostile political leaders" questioning whether Amazon had spied on members of the European Parliament.

    "We also question the definition of 'hostile political leaders' described in the recent job posts hitherto mentioned. Who does it concern? Has Amazon already spied on Members of the European Parliament? Did it intend to?", the lawmakers wrote.

    The development comes as Vice reported last month that Amazon has a programme that allows it to spy on its employees' groups on Facebook.

    Scandal Over Treatment of Workers

    Online shopping has become a necessity during the coronavirus outbreak and online retailers, including Amazon, have been the unspoken winners of the pandemic. According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, the company’s CEO and founder has added $70 billion to his fortune this year. However, while most of the world’s population was confined within their homes Amazon employees had to show up at work every day to ensure that customers get their orders. They have repeatedly complained that the company has not done enough to protect them during the pandemic citing a lack of protective equipment and failure to notify workers when their colleagues contracted the coronavirus.

    Reports say almost 20,000 Amazon employees have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. 

    In Europe complaints against the company ended with the closure of Amazon’s six warehouses in France after employees spoke with trade unions. After lengthy talks with workers’ unions and promises to improve security the e-commerce giant reached an agreement and was allowed to reopen the warehouses.

    "[The deal] shows how important it is to have a union voice when it comes to health and safety. These workers had the same concerns as workers everywhere: the pace of work made it impossible to maintain distance and there was no enforcement of any rules. They stood together and negotiated an agreement to fix these issues and enable the warehouses to reopen", said Christy Hoffman, general secretary for the international labour union UNI Global, commenting on the deal between Amazon and French workers.

    Amazon’s employees in the United States were less successful than their European colleagues. Two people were fired after publicly criticising the company’s safety and working conditions and although the company delivered on the promise and supplied workers with protective equipment, workers demands of hazard pay, improved sick leave policies, and an increase in hourly salary by $2 have not been met.

    Commenting on protests in the United States an Amazon spokesperson said:

    "The fact is that Amazon already offers what unions are requesting for employees – industry-leading pay, a variety of benefits packages, and opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment".

    As for the job offerings that were recently posted by the company, Amazon said they were "made in error" and that the job post was not an accurate description of the role.

    Tags:
    trade union, COVID-19, European Union, Amazon
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