Efforts to unionize Amazon workers in Canada ramp up in Ontario as

Workers arriving at the Amazon warehouse in Hamilton on Wednesday morning were met by a handful of people in bright yellow vests with pamphlets and signs saying “Amazon needs a union!”

Members of Teamsters Local 879 said they stepped up their efforts after hearing from some workers at the Mountain fulfilment centre who expressed interest in unionizing.

“We have gotten some calls from Amazon workers to do with the conditions inside, how they’re being treated,” said Jim Killey, who handles organizing for the union. “When they call, we come.”

The action outside the Hamilton fulfilment centre follows similar leaflet handouts at other Amazon locations in Ontario, in Milton, Cambridge, Kitchener and London, according to Killey.

“There’s a Canada-wide organizing campaign with Teamsters,” he said.

The robotics facility, which the company called its “most technologically advanced fulfilment centre” in Canada, opened under a month ago, with Amazon announcing in April it plans to set up three more Ontario facilities in 2023.

The four centres will create a combined 4,500 “safe” jobs, the online retail giant said at the time, with at least 1,500 at the Hamilton location.

Amazon spokesperson Dave Bauer previously told CBC the majority of local warehouse workers would be full time, with a starting wage of $18.70 an hour.

Workers will also have medical, vision and dental coverage, and other benefits like a group RRSP plan, stock awards and performance bonuses, Bauer said.

Teamsters Local 879 member Steve Robertson hands out informational pamphlets outside the Amazon warehouse in Hamilton on Wednesday. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Asked for comment on the unionization effort in Hamilton, Amazon spokesperson Ryma Boussoufa said the company does not believe “unions are the best answer for our employees,” but the choice is up to the workers.

“Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work,” Boussoufa wrote in an email.

Paul Gray describes Amazon as one of the “most notoriously anti-union companies in Canada.”

The assistant professor of labour studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., pointed to reports of stress and an “incredibly” high injury rate at warehouses because of Amazon’s quotas.

While the pay may be higher than other entry-level jobs, Gray said, it’s low in comparison to other warehouse work.

“A lot of these workers are saying the compensation may be comparatively good, but that doesn’t justify the working conditions that put them in danger.”

Union rep says he’s heard worker concerns

A lack of breaks, cutting back on time off and being docked for the time it takes to cross the massive facility to use the washroom are among concerns Killey said he’s heard from staff in Hamilton.

He declined to be more specific, citing a need to protect the workers.

The pamphlets included wage comparisons and contact information for Teamsters Local 879. (Dan…

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