Amazon’s Track Record May Signal a Change in Australian Industrial Relations
Sarah Kaine, Emmanuel Josserand, 6 Dec 17

The bulk of potential new jobs associated with automation at Amazon are unlikely to happen in Australia - but rather where robots are developed and manufactured. Joe Castro/AAP

Amazon’s entry to Australia signals a wider and worrying trend in worker relations. The company’s model, resting on heavy automation, means fewer low and middle skill jobs. 

Like other multinational companies that enter the Australian marketplace, Amazon will have different industrial relations practices and this could signal changes in union relations. This comes as unions themselves fight to stay relevant in a changing workforce.

Amazon warehouses are not worker-free and some new jobs will be created for maintenance or robot learning. But the bulk of potential new jobs associated with automation at Amazon are unlikely to happen in Australia - but rather where robots are developed and manufactured

This trend is likely to be aggravated with drone delivery and the first worker-less full scale convenience store where you can just “grab and go” already operating in the US.

It’s likely that the higher the future market share of Amazon in Australia, the bigger the negative impact on retail and logistics jobs.

Recently there have been reports from Germany and Italy about Amazon workers striking following failures to win improvements in pay and conditions - with workers citing “brutal” working conditions.

In the UK, Amazon widely uses controversial zero-hours contracts (which mean employers do not guarantee any hours per week to an individual worker). Amazon is also reportedly making its warehouse workers wear GPS tracking devices to monitor work activity.

Only use humans if robots can’t do it

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