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Official tribunal decision

Amazon at war with the Labour Code following Quebec union certification

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It's now a done deal. On Friday, May 10, the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT) granted union accreditation to workers at Amazon's DXT4 warehouse in Laval. This historic decision makes the delivery centre the retail giant's first unionized facility in Canada.

This victory is the result of two years of relentless efforts on the part of workers and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN). "We still have to make it concrete on the floor, but it's official that we've got it," explains a CSN activist in an interview with North Star who preferred to remain anonymous to avoid reprisals from the company.

"Everyone is excited and happy. Inside the warehouse, the workers are really smiling. They can't wait for the work to start."

Yet the battle is far from over. As soon as the union certification was announced, Amazon reacted by declaring that they did not recognize the union and that they were contesting article 28 of the Quebec Labor Code, which, among other things, forces the employer to negotiate with a union that has obtained signatures of membership cards by the majority of the workers it seeks to represent. The multinational's lawyers believe that certification by card verification is "undemocratic" and "unconstitutional."

"They want to take us all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge the law," added the activist.

For him, this reaction from Amazon is not surprising and demonstrates a general opposition to workers' rights on the part of the multinational.

He points out that the giant "does the same thing in the United States. Over there, they're challenging the American labour relations board itself. So, it's clear that Amazon is willing to attack workers' rights in their entirety to avoid having a union."

"That's really where you see that the big monopolies consider themselves and act as if they're above the law. In the end, no matter what the law says, they're going to challenge it. They put it in a nice package and ask for more 'democracy,' but the reality is quite the opposite," he exclaims.

In a communication sent privately on Friday to all employees at the DXT4 delivery centre and obtained by the North Star, Amazon claimed that the court had certified the union "without allowing a vote." They added that they want to appeal the decision, saying they were "ensuring that the laws respect the right of every individual to be heard and to decide what is right for all of our employees."

Yet more than 50% of Amazon workers signed a card, the same percentage as is required in a vote.

The managers added, in an obviously rough translation into French: "We are a culture that is always looking to improve and innovate, and we will continue to listen, learn and improve every day. We will continue to focus on your safety, support our team and offer our best to customers."

But the CSN activist interviewed by North Star doesn't believe the majority are falling for their game. "Everyone knows that Amazon's public discourse is bullshit. The general population knows that working conditions at Amazon are crap. And there's not a single Amazon employee who buys into their message, apart from the managers, and even then!"

He points out that the working conditions offered by Amazon don't stand up to comparison with unionized jobs in the same sector. "Even with equivalent wages and working conditions, a union also means getting respect and having power in your workplace. In a non-union workplace, the boss can completely change working conditions overnight, and you have no say. When you're unionized, they can't."

He also explains that for Amazon, the prospect of losing its "flexibility" is even more worrying than offering better wages. "It's a question of power, because they won't be able to control work and workers as they want. They're trying to give the impression that it doesn't bother them, but at the same time, they're in open battle with the union."

Finally, he believes that this quest for "flexibility" is not an isolated phenomenon. "Bill 15 in health care, Bill 51 in construction, these are all reforms that are being put forward to give employers more 'flexibility' to divide tasks, manage staff as they see fit, and so on. Why? To be more productive, to make more money, to cut costs. It's possible to fight this, and we have to."

Despite Amazon's challenges, this union certification marks a turning point in the fight for workers' rights at Amazon.

"We're all proud of everything we've done. We're part of a movement that's much bigger than just our little warehouse. In Europe, there are people doing this, in the United States too. But above all, we're enthusiastic about continuing the work. It's like a surge of energy to keep going, because it's far from being an end in itself. We just keep going. We want to organize others. We need to show on the shop floor that the union makes a difference. We're rolling up our sleeves and getting back to work. We don't have time to sit on our laurels," concludes the activist. 

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