John Harris

Journalist & Author

Workers’ rights? Bosses don’t care – soon they’ll only need robots | John Harris

Tech companies like Amazon make massive profits yet seem to treat their staff appallingly. As we click, we should consider the dystopia to come

As anyone with a TV will know, Amazon’s Christmas ad campaign is built around a surreal fantasia in which its delivery boxes acquire voices and become a global choir, belting out the Jacksons’ 1980 hit Can You Feel It. It’s pretty clear why Amazon chose the song: the music conveys euphoric optimism, while its lyrics evoke a feelgood creed to which everyone could sign up: “If you look around / The whole world’s coming together now … All the colours of the world should be / Lovin’ each other wholeheartedly.”

While Jeff Bezos’s company pushes its workers through the frenzy of Christmas, some are trying to make that promise of human unity and universal hope a little more specific. In New York, employees at a “fulfilment centre” in Staten Island have announced that they want to break through the company’s longstanding hostility to organised labour, and collectively unionise. On Black Friday there were strikes and protests by Amazon workers in Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the UK against low wages and “inhuman conditions”. In Australia, where the company has been operating for only a year, two unions have combined to try and organise Amazon workers after one activist was sacked from his agency job at a fulfilment centre in Sydney.

Related: Hate lugging cat litter? Don’t make us Amazon warehouse workers do it

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