Unifor applies to represent two Amazon fulfilment centres in Metro Vancouver

Unifor has filed two applications to represent Vancouver-area Amazon workers with the BC Labour Relations Board.

The union said in a press release Wednesday that it has filed applications for an Amazon fulfilment centre in New Westminster and one in Delta.

“Workers at Amazon are seeking job security, health and safety, and fair wages,” Lana Payne, the union’s national president, said in the release.

Unifor first announced a union drive for Amazon workers in Metro Vancouver last July, and says workers began signing cards in October.

When the union drive was announced, Payne said Amazon workers put themselves at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, and joining a union would help them push their employer to improve working conditions.

The drive is part of a wider movement that has been facing an uphill battle.

Two years ago, Amazon workers in Staten Island, New York, voted to unionize, a historic moment for a brand-new Amazon Labor Union.

But today, that warehouse remains the only US site that has voted to unionize, and it doesn’t have a contract yet as the retail giant is resisting efforts to bargain.

“We call on Amazon to respect the wishes of workers and avoid using the legal tricks and games it has played in the past to block unionization,” Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said in the press release.

Unifor said that the labour relations board will determine whether a vote is needed to certify the applications.

Under BC law, if the signed cards represent more than 55 per cent of the eligible workforce at a facility, union certification is granted and the union and employer can begin bargaining a collective agreement.

If the cards represent at least 45 per cent of the eligible workforce, a vote may be called instead.

A spokeswoman for Amazon said the company looks forward to working with employees to “continue making Amazon a great place to work.”

“The fact is, Amazon already offers what many unions are requesting: safe and inclusive workplaces, competitive pay, health benefits on day one, and opportunities for career growth,” spokeswoman Barbara Agrait said in an email.

— With files from The Associated Press