Amazon van, photo Tdorante10/CC

Amazon van, photo Tdorante10/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

A GMB union rep

Amazon is spying on its ‘flex’ drivers in dozens of Facebook groups in the US, the UK, and Spain, according to the Vice Media Group. Flex drivers are the workers who deliver the items to your door.

The issue first came to light after Amazon posted it was hiring two intelligence analysts to track organising efforts within the company. One of the listings said the company needed an analyst that can keep an eye on sensitive and confidential topics “including labour organising threats against the company”. While the two listings mentioned other threats, they focused mainly on organised labour, which was mentioned several times.

Amazon has since said the wording of the listings was not an “accurate description of the role” and had since been corrected, although these new versions cannot be found.

Vice say they have proof that shows Amazon is systematically monitoring, categorising and analysing the nominally closed social media pages utilised by their flex drivers. They are independent contractors who deliver packages and groceries for Amazon and Whole Foods using their own vehicles.

They do not receive health care benefits, sick pay, overtime pay, or other compensation or benefits guaranteed to Amazon employees. Amazon also relies on contracted workers employed by small companies known as delivery service partners to deliver packages.

Closed Facebook groups have been used by gig workers who work for a wide swathe of companies to organise workers and strikes across vast disjointed workforces.

It is vital that workers are organised in trade unions that fight for democratic rights which include the right to be active in your union free from company and police spies, subversion and blacklisting.

Big corporations spying on their workforce is nothing new. In the UK, in 1919, an organisation called the Economic League was set up. The League’s running costs were funded by contributions from various companies.

According to the Labour Research Department, the League had an income of £266,000 in 1968 (equivalent of £4,600,000 in 2020). These contributions came from 154 known companies, with 21 known banks and financial institutions contributing as much as the 47 known manufacturing companies.

This organisation eventually broke up in 1993 after blacklisting thousands of workers in these companies. A descendant of the League, the Consulting Association, similarly blacklisted thousands of building workers.

As a union rep in the 1980s I was told personally by my HR manager that he could sack me and ensure I never worked again.