For many years, the leaders of Amazon France Logistique have refused to communicate to staff representatives, as well as to journalists, basic statistical data concerning working conditions in the French warehouses of the world number one in online sales. However, on Friday January 22, during the company’s central social and economic committee (CSEC), which will be held by videoconference, an independent study will be unveiled analyzing Amazon’s social and employment policy in France. This report, that Humanity was able to consult, was carried out for the elected representatives of the CSEC by the accounting firm Progexa. In addition to being damning for the French subsidiary of the Seattle multinational, it is publishing for the first time data that had hitherto been shrouded in mystery. And reveals that those published in the company’s social reports may not be reliable.
The 170 pages of the document open with an incredible chronicle, that of the innumerable pitfalls that Amazon’s human resources department has striven to set up for experts throughout their mission, by not responding to their requests for assistance. information, or very late, or in an incomplete or erroneous manner. Thus, for lack of data, the experts were not able to correctly analyze phenomena such as “absenteeism by department and profession”, or “the evolution of the workforce by department”. Nevertheless, the report contains important revelations.
The first concerns the use of temporary agency work. As part of their media appearances, the bosses of Amazon France have been repeating for more than a decade that the use of temporary work in their warehouses would be correlated “To a seasonal activity”. And, on this point, under the presidencies of Sarkozy, Hollande, then Macron, there was no lack of liberal political representatives favorable to Amazon’s establishments to act as parrots for the communicators of the US multinational. Interviewed on June 25, 2012, during the inauguration of the Amazon warehouse in Sevrey (Saône-et-Loire), the Minister of Productive Recovery, Arnaud Montebourg, thus defended Amazon: “Listen, there are seasonal jobs, just like any other business. Harvests are seasonal jobs. In the industry, there are seasonal jobs. “
Unfit employee, dismissed employee
In fact, the report presented to the CSEC reveals that the use of precarious employment is structural at Amazon France Logistique and not correlated with seasonal activity. According to its authors, it is “A choice of HR management which consists in partly outsourcing the workers”. In short, rather than hiring permanent workers, Amazon deliberately maintains an extremely high percentage of temporary workers. For 2019, temporary workers represent 44% of the total workforce hired by Amazon France. For the most arduous and dangerous jobs, such as receiving or shipping goods to warehouses, the temporary employment rate climbs to 64% of the workforce. These figures come to blast the myth of the flagship of logistics which would hire the chain on permanent contracts in socially stricken areas.
Admittedly, the total average monthly workforce of Amazon France in full-time equivalents (FTE) has tripled in five years. From a workforce of 2,910 FTEs in 2014, Amazon grew to 9,883 FTEs in 2019. But, during 2019, temporary employment increased twice as fast at Amazon (+ 47% of FTE ) than internal staff (+ 18% FTE). The spectacular increase in Amazon activity has also resulted in an increased use of part-time work (20% of the workforce), overtime (+ 58% over one year in 2019) , as well as night work (4,659 workers concerned in 2019). The report also reveals that Amazon, where 1 in 2 employees have less than three years of seniority, and where 4 in 10 employees are aged 30 or less, is a company where the departure of permanent workers is accelerating. year after year. Between 2017 and 2019, 1,745 permanent employees left Amazon, ie half of the internal workforce at the end of 2016. The company’s turnover rates are higher than the industry average, whether for workers (19.8%), supervisors (23.9%) or for executives (34.2%). Extremely high, this renewal of executives speaks volumes about the working conditions in this category. The report also points to absenteeism rates exceeding the alert thresholds, specifying in particular that, in the warehouses of Lauwin-Planque (North) and Montélimar (Drôme), they exceed 10%.
More than a thousand accidents at work were declared by Amazon France Logistique in 2019, i.e. nearly 3 accidents per day. This figure, the central trade union delegate of the CGT Amazon, Alain Jeault, considers it greatly reduced: “Every day, in Amazon warehouses, everything is done to encourage workers, particularly temporary workers, not to report their accidents. Moreover, the accident figures among temporary workers speak for themselves: while temporary workers represent one in two accidents, minor accidents are much less reported for them than for permanent and fixed-term contracts. This difference statistics confirms what the CGT observes on the sites, where temporary workers are invited to return home after an accident and not to declare it. “
In 2019, 24 employees were made redundant by the company after being declared unfit for their job by the occupational physician, ie 8 more than in 2018. Only one of them was reclassified. in the business. The main cause of occupational illnesses at Amazon are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs represent 15 of the 16 occupational illnesses declared in 2019. These disorders have their origin in physical constraints (repetitive movements, carrying heavy loads), but also organizational (work schedules that do not allow for breaks according to the needs of physiological recovery) and psychosocial (little room for maneuver, time constraints in the performance of work). These are the constraints that constitute the daily life of Amazon workers around the world, a company whose top priority is reducing delivery times for its customers.
Finally, during their investigation, the experts discovered disturbing discrepancies between the sum of the workforce in the warehouses published in certain establishment social reports and the workforce published in the company’s social report. Would this difference make it possible to disguise the figures for work accidents? Amazon did not respond on this point, but according to sources the company was able to provide, the authors of the report found significant discrepancies in the data. And this, whether it concerns the number of work accidents or the number of occupational diseases. In addition, some data transmitted by Amazon was simply wrong. “The unreliability of social data from Amazon France Logistique is all the more damaging for CSEC elected officials as Amazon is a company specializing in data collection”, rebukes the report.
Provider of a large number of industrial jobs that cannot be relocated, the logistics sector represents a vital link in the French economy. In recent decades, this sector has developed considerably because it is up to it, crucial in a modern capitalist economy, to move goods produced to the other side of the world at full speed. For the liberal political class, each warehouse opening is therefore an opportunity to stage a fantasized “economic dynamism”, that of an activity that would replace the industrial jobs of yesteryear. Thus, on October 3, 2017, to applause, a pair of scissors in hand, President Emmanuel Macron came to inaugurate the Amazon warehouse in Boves (Somme), qualifying this location as “Incredible luck”. A chance, certainly. But for whom?