How Amazon is destroying jobs and shaping territories

Amazon’s exponential development is based on very efficient processes: simplified purchases by memorizing bank details, proposals for similar products (algorithms), provision of a comprehensive catalog, a powerful search engine and fast delivering services through logistics platforms that generate customer satisfaction and trust. But this growth is also based on fraudulent or questionable practices that reduce its costs: tax evasion, VAT fraud, exploitation of employees, piling thanks to profits linked to Amazon Web Services, unfair competition, etc.

When Amazon reaches the top spot in a country, the gap only widens through cumulative effects. The more attractive the market place, the wider its offer and the more attractive it is. The process leads to a de facto monopoly in e-commerce. Thus, Amazon controls half of e-commerce in the United States. ” When, in 2005, Amazon launched its Prime formula, there were less than a dozen warehouses scattered across the country. In 2017, their number increased to over a hundred at the national level written by Alec MacGillis.

In France, Amazon also dominates the sector in 2020, with 53.7% of sales, followed by the Fnac site (27.0%) and Cdiscount (18.2%). Amazon’s French branch opened in 2000, six years after the company was founded in the United States. Since the opening of the first distribution center in Saran (Loiret) in 2007 to the eighth in Augny (Moselle) in 2021, its activity has experienced exponential growth: dozens of delivery agencies, a total average monthly workforce of tripled in five years, from 2,910 in 2014 to 9,883 in 2019, a turnover in meteoric rise. Amazon will inevitably distance itself from its competitors, such as in the United States, with a lag of ten years.

Amazon is destroying jobs

To justify the creation of Amazon, the argument of job creation is often invoked by its leaders. However, a recent study of the situation in several European countries, quoted by Friends of the Earth, proves the opposite: ” For non-food trade in the broad sense, if we establish the balance of creations/destructions for retail and wholesale trade, France lost more than 80,000 jobs between 2009 and 2018 [1] due to the development of e-commerce.

The study shows that local businesses are the hardest hit: ” One job created in firms with more than 250 employees by the expansion of e-commerce leads to the destruction of six jobs in firms with fewer than 250 employees “. And to conclude: Projected scenarios predict between 46,000 and 87,000 jobs destroyed in France by 2028 depending on the development of e-commerce in all sectors studied (retail, wholesale and 4 service branches) “. The largest job losses occurred in the clothing sector.

Not only that: many jobs at Amazon could be lost to the robotization of the centers. In addition, Amazon already delivers a third of its products to France from abroad and has moved its East German warehouses to Poland to deliver across the Rhine, taking advantage of the country’s low labor costs.

Unbearable working conditions

Even the leaders of Amazon recognize it: the working conditions in their warehouses are difficult. However, this situation continues to worsen. In a report conducted at the request of Amazon’s central social and economic committee (CSEC), and published in January 2021, the expertise firm Progexa points to the increase in precariousness and retrograde working conditions.

Temporary workers represented 44% of the average workforce in 2019, an increasing share that reached more than 55% on average throughout the year in 5 of the 7 distribution centers. Atypical schedules are developing: organization of activity in three-shift shifts, generality of night and weekend work, increase in part-time, overtime, 12-hour day… Also defined by reports an acceleration of departures progressing from less than 8% in 2016 to 13.2% in 2019. One in two employees has less than three years of seniority.

The compressible absenteeism rate continued to increase during the study period, reaching particularly alarming levels in Lauwin Planque (10.4%) and Montélimar in 2019 (10.7%). The frequency rates of accidents at work are above average for French companies, which is also observed in the United States: ” In a study of 23 Amazon warehouses, the Center for Investigative Reporting observed that the rate of serious injuries was more than twice the national average in the goods storage and processing sector. MacGillis reports.

Modeling territories and the rejection of democracy

In his book, Alec MacGillis also looks at the impact of Amazon development on the territories. ” Yes, there have always been some regions in the United States that are wealthier than others, but the gap continues to widen. he says. The regions are specialized: on the one hand, those that host the leaders and senior management of Amazon – Seattle is the best example – most of them have become unaffordable for the middle class. On the other hand, those chosen for the construction of warehouses or data centers, disaster areas with high unemployment rates.

The more wealth is concentrated in certain cities, the more it is concentrated within cities in certain neighborhoods, exacerbating long-standing imbalances, without displacing the poorest. MacGillis added. Within cities or regions, Amazon plays ” so big »on territorial organization: « over time and with its staggering expansion, it divided the territory into different types of areas, each with a well-defined rank, average income and purpose. This is also the case in France, as mentioned by Thomas Legrand of France Inter, where ” Amazon, Uber and Airbnb have more impact on housing, the environment, urban planning than elected officials. (15/07/22)

In the United States, Amazon’s holdings have increased thanks to the active support of some elected officials. France was not spared by these practices. The “Uber Files” showed Emmanuel Macron’s personal involvement in the gradual deregulation of the taxi and VTC market in favor of Uber. The president has the same determination to remove all obstacles to Amazon’s development. It is thanks to him that Amazon’s warehouses escaped the moratorium on e-commerce warehouses promoted by the citizens’ climate convention. The signing of confidentiality clauses imposed on elected officials in the territories targeted by Amazon’s projects and the use of promoters as nominees to hide the construction of its new warehouses is a denial of democracy. Fortunately, the citizens were vigilant and were able to prevent these practices in Fournès, Montbert, Petit-Couronne and Fontaine. The struggle continues!

Laurence Boubet

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