THE BLACK FRIDAY MOBILISATION STRONGLY EMPHASISES THE IMMEDIATE NEED FOR A TRADE UNION AND POLITICAL BATTLE AGAINST THE AMAZON MODEL.
Last Friday, hundreds of SI Cobas workers, mostly logistics workers from various Italian cities, manned the gates of the Amazon mega-plant in Castel San Giovanni (Piacenza); with them were dozens of students and workers in solidarity.
We chose to join the appeal launched by the international network “Make Amazon Pay” with the aim of giving continuity to the highly successful initiative on the occasion of the general strike of grassroots trade unionism on 11 October, and thus to give voice to the struggles against exploitation and low wages imposed by the Amazon system.
We gathered outside the Amazon gates on the “Black Friday”, which has become the worldwide symbol and apex of a model of unbridled consumerism based on a reduction in retail prices that is the result of both the monstrous increase in the pace and workload of warehouse workers and drivers, and the starvation wages made possible by a system of generalised precariousness of working and contractual conditions. This system was further exacerbated during the pandemic and today a majority of Amazon workers are employed for years on fixed-term or temporary contracts, under the permanent blackmail of non-renewal and therefore unable to organise themselves in a trade union to assert their reasons and interests.
Right on the eve of Black Friday, the official unions Filt Cgil, Fit Cisl and Uil Trasporti called off the strike for Amazon’s delivery drivers on the pretext of having signed an agreement with the company. They claim it to be an improvement, but in reality it legitimises and ratifies the conditions of semi-slavery imposed by the bosses, to the point of providing for abnormal percentages of precarious labour contracts at each plant (up to 70%!) in exchange for some modest wage improvements.
The rhetoric of the “last mile” hides a reality of inhuman work rates, where it is forbidden even to go to the toilet during the shift, under penalty of severe disciplinary measures, and where every right provided by national collective agreements, from holidays to illness, from family leave to safeguards for working mothers, can be cancelled or denied in the name of the “superior” needs of the market.
Friday’s mobilisation was not just an initiative of solidarity. SI Cobas workers from some of the most important national and international logistics chains (DHL, BRT, SDA, GLS, FedEx, UPS, Fercam, etc.) and from the most important retail chains (Leroy Merlin, Ikea, Zalando, Zara, etc.) are already experiencing first-hand how the Amazon model is increasingly becoming the reference paradigm in the entire sector. Everywhere the bosses are pushing obsessively to increase the share of temporary and fixed-term contracts, with the double aim of securing, on the one hand, a large reserve of “second class” labour with no rights and over-blackmailed, and on the other to unleash a savage downward competition on the cost of labour in order to worsen the contractual and wage conditions of permanent workers themselves and definitively break down both the barriers set by the national collective agreement and, above all, the achievements won in recent years through the struggles led by SI Cobas and other rank-and file unions.
On Friday morning, we blocked both the gates of the Castel San Giovanni plant for more than four hours, interrupting the flow of goods in the main Italian hub of the global e-commerce giant.
It was not a symbolic initiative, but a piece of a strategy aimed at building a working class front that on a national and international scale is capable of opposing the policies of starvation and precariousness that affect the proletariat regardless of sector or nationality.
In recent months we have been fighting with all our might against an employers’ offensive that, relying on the lifting of the ban on redundancies by the Draghi government, is violently hitting wages and social benefits. This is occurring in a context made even more dramatic by the increase in the cost of living and basic necessities with the rise in inflation and the profound restructuring processes imposed by the pandemic crisis – a health, economic and social crisis that has exposed, as never before, the inefficiency, irrationality and barbarity of the capitalist system on an international scale.
An unprecedented repressive axe is daily hitting our initiatives: governments and the state of the bosses have no other response to trade union and social demands than police charges, batons, arrests, bans and countless measures of surveillance and restriction of personal freedom, demonstrating that this system, starting with its “democratic” institutions, has nothing to offer workers and the exploited masses except the constant and relentless deterioration of wages and living conditions.
At the end of the action, we have pledged that we will soon be back at the gates of Amazon, ever stronger, resolute and better organised: we wish that our mobilisation will serve as a wake-up call for all those who do not intend to passively accept the progressive “amazonisation” of the world of work and of society as a whole, and that it will contribute to creating the conditions for a new national general strike in the near future.
Only the struggle pays.
An injury to one is an injury to all!