An Amazon warehouse in western Sydney called the police to remove two union officials investigating allegations of workers’ cars being overpacked during its busy Black Friday sales period.
The Transport Workers’ Union sent three officials to Amazon Flex’s Bella Vista parcel pickup facility on Friday, with two of them tasked with going onsite to investigate reports of alleged dangerous overloading of vehicles. They believed workers were being pressured to accept the parcels to avoid disciplinary action or termination.
The union has supplied photos of delivery cars full of Amazon boxes at the site.
Amazon Flex is a gig-economy style delivery service similar to Uber Eats, in that drivers provide their own car to make the deliveries.
The TWU said the officials were initially let on to the site, but management later called police to have them removed. The union said officials were allowed to remain due to having legal right of entry documentation.
An Amazon spokesperson told the Guardian one official followed right of entry requirements, but then two others “did not meet relevant entry requirements for right of access to the site” and then refused when they were asked to leave.
“We have facilitated dozens of authorised union visits at our sites around Australia by multiple unions in the past year,” the spokesperson said.
On the allegations around overpacking the cars, the spokesperson said: “We don’t want anyone driving on the road with their view obscured.
“If a driver is concerned that packages obscure their view, they can seek the assistance from delivery station staff to pack the parcels more effectively.
“In the rare instance where the packages will not fit, the delivery station staff will remove as many packages as required to ensure the driver has visibility and can drive safely. There are no penalties where a delivery partner has raised concerns leading to packages being removed for that block.”
They said the driver has the option to decline the block they have been allocated.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said it was a disgrace for the company to call police on union officials at the site.
“On Black Friday of all days – a day when transport workers are dealing with extraordinary pressure – Amazon’s confirmed what we’ve always known: raking in … profit is more important to them than keeping workers safe,” he said.
“This anti-worker pattern of behaviour will only make transport more deadly, and our roads less safe for workers and the community.”
Amazon previously called police to the company’s site in Moore Park in Sydney when officials were visiting in May 2020.
Company officials faced heated questioning before the Senate committee examining job security earlier this month.
The committee heard Amazon Flex drivers are paid a minimum of $108 for a four-hour block, but said the average rate paid to a driver in October this year was $125 per four hour block.
The base rate is still around $27 per hour, however, before superannuation and costs, and Labor senators queried why this was well below the minimum rates set for delivery drivers in New South Wales and Victoria.
In a response to a question on notice about the pay rate published this week, Amazon said it was “inaccurate” to compare the rate to the $40.71 standard outlined in Victoria’s rates of pay.
“Many of the assumptions on which the $40.71 figure is based do not apply to Amazon Flex delivery partners,” Amazon said. “For example, the $40.71 per hour rate is based on the indicative figures for a full-time van driver, operating a vehicle with a current capital value of $32,317 for 7.6 hours per day, 220 days per year.
“These figures do not reflect a supplementary earning opportunity where Amazon Flex delivery partners deliver an average of approximately three blocks per week, operating a sedan to earn extra income around their other commitments.”
The company has said it would like to see a “simple and appropriate national framework for owner drivers, and that we welcome an opportunity to work with state and federal governments on a nationally consistent framework of regulations.”
Guardian Australia has sought comment from NSW Police.