A forklift driver who worked for Amazon Australia is taking legal action, after he says he was sacked for joining a union.
Raj was employed through labour hire company Adecco, and worked at Amazon’s Sydney fulfilment centre.
He has lodged a general protections claim involving dismissal in the Fair Work Commission, arguing that he was unlawfully dismissed for union activity.
Raj was the first warehouse worker to join the the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) – with a number of his co-workers joining soon after.
He claims that he was directed not to wear a union cap and lanyard to work and Adecco representatives objected to union organisers distributing promotional material to workers.
Raj got in a dispute with his employer after he repeatedly asked for more hours.
He met a union official in the Amazon Sydney fulfilment centre on 5 October, while a member of management was present in the lunch room.
Adecco dismissed him on 9 October, but denies that the refusal to grant him more hours and the dismissal were motivated by his union activity.
Raj claims Adecco told him it was happy with his work.
“It is unfair treatment just because I’m in the union,” he said. “I need to pay the bills … so I need a job, without a job you can’t survive,” he said.
“What happened to me was not fair. I just want to get back to work at Amazon.”
Both the SDA and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) have joined forces to organise workers on Amazon sites.
Amazon was criticised for its decision to hire warehouse workers through Adecco on award rates when it launched in Australia late last year.
The unions wanted the company to employer workers directly and bargain with them collectively.
In November, Amazon workers protested in the UK over complaints about its warehouse working conditions, including allegations that workers did not have enough time for bathroom breaks.
What Adecco and Amazon say
A spokeswoman for Adecco said:
“Adecco respects our workers’ rights to freedom of association, and the exercise of such rights. In no circumstances would Adecco take action against our workers for exercising these rights.”
A spokesman for Amazon said the allegations about working conditions by the SDA are “untrue and sensationalist”.
“Amazon respects its associates right to choose to join or not join a labour union.”
The SDA New South Wales secretary, Bernie Smith, said:
“We are not going to accept the sacking of a worker, who joined the union, who just wants to work enough hours to support his family.
“We have serious concerns about Amazon from what we have heard from unions overseas.”
The Transport Workers Union national secretary, Michael Kaine, said the unions would “not tolerate the downgrading of jobs in Australia by Amazon”.
“Our aim is to ensure Amazon workers in Australia are highly organised and acutely aware of their own rights and the company’s responsibilities.”
What the law says
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Industrial Relations Claims, said the law is clear when it comes to union activity.
“The Fair Work Act prohibits adverse action against workers based on industrial activity, such as joining a union,” he said.
“You cannot be punished, including being sacked, for union activity.”
Raj’s case is expected to head to the Federal Court in the new year.
If you have been unfairly dismissed from employment, we can help, but strict time limits apply.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on 1300 853 837.
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