Amazon has almost 27 years of life in the United States, but it was not so long ago that its subsidiaries began their journey across the rest of the planet. Now the company of e-commerce par excellence celebrates its first decade in Spain. Since 2011, the technology company operates in the south of the Pyrenees with a total investment of 6,800 million euros. With a first and innocent approach in which nobody imagined the future of the e-commerceWith no central offices and few staff, Jeff Bezos’ ingenuity reaches 12,000 permanent employees in Spain, 15,000 by 2021.
Taking advantage of its anniversary, Amazon has taken the opportunity to inaugurate its new robotized center – equipped with the company’s latest technology – in Illescas (Toledo). Amazon has also wanted to put a promise on the table: 25,000 permanent employees of all types of profiles in Spain before the end of 2025. A strong bet that will solve one of the biggest image problems of the company around the world: the question of employment and its quality.
Because Amazon’s work on employment is great, but it still has great international debates. The before, its perhaps current during and after technology companies. “We must not leave anyone behind in terms of employment,” argues José Manuel Tofiño Pérez, Mayor of the town for the PSOE in this regard.
Something that Emiliano García Page, President of the Junta de Castilla la Mancha for the same party, has pointed out with “the great debates that have been held on labor models and companies”, adding, in addition, “that you cannot put doors to the field”. Perhaps the counterpoint to the policies that the Government has been managing to date, mainly through the Rider Law or the minimum wage increases.
“We have bet a lot from the beginning for these companies even when their work models were not entirely good. But in this case we should not focus on precariousness, but on the future.”Emiliano Garcia Page
Amazon, from online sales to controlling everything
Although the United States has always been the main market for the company, within a few years practically all of the businesses launched by Amazon have been replicated in Spain. Bezos started with a company of e-commerce which in a few years also came to control a music platform, Twitch streaming (a sector in which Spain occupies a predominant place), an e-book platform or streaming with more and more titles of its own capable of competing with Netflix –more now with its acquisition of MGM–. Amazon also occupies a leading space in business services and is venturing as healthcare provider in United States; a service that will most likely soon begin its expansion.
Of course it has also positioned itself in the delivery proximity with its own supermarkets and agreements with large platforms. Amazon, in an attempt to get on the new habits of the market and compete with platforms like Glovo, already occupies its place in the sector.
2020 and 2021 have been record years for Amazon. The coronavirus pandemic, the reason for closure for many companies, meant a before and after in its activity and accounts for the technology company. Only in Spain, they doubled figures at the end of 2020 with a billed of 1,568.6 million euros.
Amazon, e-commerce of origin and a whole 10 years after its arrival in Spain, celebrates its birthday not without problems. Long before it started in the United States, Spain – like other regions of Europe – stood up to big tech when it came to employment. Workers’ rights have been the company’s Achilles Heel for many years.
10 years in Spain and almost 5 with worker strikes
The question of employment in the companies of the so-called new economy has been a constant theme for some years. Mar Hershenson, a Silicon Valley investor, explained to Hypertextual, that all these companies started with the culture of “anything goes”. Uber, Lyft, Amazon, Glovo or Uber Eats here in Spain that began with a stage very far from the interests of the worker, but that little by little will align themselves as their predecessors did in the history of the economy.
For now there is a while to get to this point. With the United States still grappling with the issue of platform drivers, the strikes by Glovo riders in Spain –both in favor of and against the Rider Law– have been setting the tone for some time. This was confirmed by an extensive report by The Verge talking about the exploitation of a group of riders in New York.
But beyond the riders, Amazon comes brewing big problems with its workforce. Also in his country of origin, where several investigations pointed out that employees were forced to urinate in bottles so as not to lose time from work under a iron culture of fear or those in charge of the distribution having to turn off the applications to be able to meet the demands of the company in the established times.
The old and new employment problem
And it is that Amazon, like any other platform of the new economy, has a big problem with the labor issue. No matter how much technology and automation is included in its activity –mainly in the plant–, human labor is necessary and essential for its operation. It gives thousands of jobs that, in turn, they become aware of their importance in the productive chain and bargaining force. Again, the rider effect comes out.
So much so that Jeff Bezos himself assumed in a public statement that the treatment of his employees had not been a priority for the growth of the company. Now out of business, the founder accepted that they should have a better deal with them. All while publicly thanking his employees for the work of so many years dedicated to financing his space travel aboard the Blue Origin a few months ago. It goes without saying that the gesture was not well received by the union groups on the platform.
All this when the last 5 years of Amazon in Spain have been irrigated by strikes by plant workers, led by San Fernando de Henares, asking for the revision of the local workers’ agreement. Just on May 12, 2021, and after three long years of negotiations that were added to the previous two of delay, the plant employees managed to reach a minimum agreement on the labor agreement.
56% of the workforce gave the go-ahead to a text that had put Amazon in check for months. Strikes and plant stoppages, which included the blocking of Amazon Prime Day coordinated with France and Italy, painted the image of a company that still had a lot to do for labor rights. And that he is still reluctant when it comes to managing the unionization of many of his employees.
Despite everything, Amazon continues to work to improve that image of the work culture of yesteryear and catch up. That, or it will be the robots of their new plants that will take over.