Amazon reigns amid the COVID-19 pandemic but workers rebel



With competition closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has skyrocketed its turnover and seen its stock price hit its all-time high, but this sweet moment has also raised tensions with workers, partners and regulators.

With the confinement, the queen company of digital commerce is living a kind of perpetual Christmas -traditionally, the Christmas season is when it is most invoiced- and could come out of this crisis stronger than ever.

On the other side of the scale, workers complain that their safety is not being guaranteed and that the company does not care about their health; while its trading partners see its margins cut, and regulators fear that an increase in its market dominance may further fuel monopolistic temptations.

A GIANT THAT DOESN’T STOP GROWING

And it is that if, before the COVID-19 crisis, Amazon had overwhelming control over digital commerce, the last few weeks have only reinforced its position, and it has hired 175,000 new employees in the United States alone.

According to the most recent data, online purchases have soared more than 90% compared to last year in the US. and Canada, and 82% in Europe, the main Amazon markets.

“It is important to find out if we are experiencing an increase in demand or just a change in the channel chosen for equal or even less demand,” explains William Harris, e-commerce strategist and founder of the specialized company Elumynt.

With the data currently available, it is difficult to answer Harris’s question, since although it is clear that electronic commerce has exploded, it will be necessary to see what happens when the health emergency subsides and stores are reopened.

SAFETY COMPLAINTS AND LAYOFFS IN RETALIATION

In any case, Amazon’s precipitous growth in the wake of the pandemic is not going smoothly, and the prominent role it is playing in times of confinement has also made it the subject of intense scrutiny.

Nothing illustrates this situation better than what happened on Tuesday, when while on Wall Street the company founded by Jeff Bezos registered its maximum historical stock price, in parallel a public relations crisis opened up when it was known that it had fired two employees for complain about the lack of protective measures for workers against the coronavirus.

Amazon alleged that these employees had “repeatedly” violated their internal policies by publicizing their discrepancies with the operation of the firm, but their cases are not isolated and have been added to other layoffs since the crisis began due to complaints about working conditions or participation. stopped in their stores as a sign of protest.

These cases, coupled with the fact that COVID-19 infections have occurred in at least 74 stores and other Amazon facilities in the US, have led several congressmen to write a letter to the company asking for explanations, and to the mayor. York, Bill de Blasio, to order the opening of an investigation into the firing of a worker who organized a protest in a firm’s warehouse.

THE SHADOW OF THE MONOPOLY

The concerns of politicians regarding the treatment Amazon is giving to its employees for the coronavirus join those that already existed regarding possible monopolistic abuses and for which several investigations have been opened in the United States.

Amazon concentrates approximately half of all US internet sales, followed by far by specialized companies or at least with a more limited range of products such as Walmart or Apple.

And with the COVID-19 pandemic further consolidating its dominance, it is already using its position of strength to substantially lower the commission it pays for each sale to so-called “Amazon associates,” according to the US economic channel CNBC.

The “associates” are internet companies, mostly the media – some as prominent as The New York Times – or blogs, that promote Amazon products to generate traffic and sales on the platform in exchange for a commission.

Despite everything, e-commerce expert Harris does not believe that Amazon will be the only big beneficiary of the crisis, and ensures that precisely because it is so big, “it creates opportunities for smaller and more focused companies to emerge. very specific products or audiences “.

Marc Arcas

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