While we welcome investment by anyone in the city – the news of a new Amazon warehouse, recently trumpeted by Joe Anderson’s office, isn’t something that convinces us we’ve turned any signifiant corner.

Let’s remember a few crucial truths. Currently, the whole economy of the Liverpool City Region is performing below national levels, with Gross Value Added per head at £14,914 in 2009 (£20,231 nationally) (England’s Northwest Research Service). Amazon’s army of shift workers and part-time packers won’t do much to move that figure in the right direction.

Anderson said: “This is a hugely exciting proposal which has the potential to be a real game changer for this part of the city. It will create over a thousand quality jobs on a scale which has not been seen in that area for many decades.” Anderson, a staunch union man (and ex Union rep), doesn’t mention Amazon’s well-reported opposition to Trades Unions, though.

But how many full time jobs? How many contracts? The promised figures are vague, to say the least. ‘Up to 500 full time jobs are promised’. Up to?

How much choice do we have – and how many people in the council know about Amazon being accused of operating ‘sweat shop-like conditions in the UK’?

Are these really quality jobs? Or is Amazon tempted here not so much because we’re business friendly, but because we have a work force without any other options, who are more likely to tolerate such reportedly terrible conditions?

“Employees are also penalized for not achieving what one manager called “ridiculous” packing quotas and are often required to walk up to 14 miles during the course of a shift to retrieve items for shipping, according to a Times reporter who went undercover at Amazon’s Bedfordshire warehouse,” says the report in Cnet

It’s also well known that being a holiday temp is the only way to get a full-time job with the company – which doesn’t even pay UK tax – and that competition is fierce. So let’s hope the council have secured better working practices, a guaranteed amount of full time jobs, and what about some air conditioning, to stop workers being stretchered out after they’ve fainted? Let’s hope, eh?

The visitor economy is one of four sectors for growth, building on the strengths and potential the area offers, and this is what Anderson pledged he’d support – growing the economy with 20,000 real jobs in his first term. But where is the movement in these crucial sectors? A city can’t grow on call centres and warehouses alone.

With youth unemployment at record levels, we need to be determined to target many of our new jobs at young people currently out of work – and to give them a real career – if our city is ever to sit at the big table again.

As far as SevenStreets is concerned, Amazon’s non-jobs are not the answer, but they’re something. We need apprenticeships, we need skills, we need long term investment and we need guaranteed full-time jobs with guaranteed training and ongoing development.

We’re sure there’s a book on that in Amazon. Let’s see if we can post one to Dale Street.

  • KT

    It’s good to point out we need ‘quality’ jobs, but given our low skills base, low levels of enterprise, low level of educational attainment etc, what people have to face is it’s a lot harder to get quality jobs here than Cambridge. Jobs are jobs, and given the economy at the moment, there are plenty of people who have lost low-skilled jobs and they need new opportunities too. Liverpool has always been based on low skilled work by and large (docks, warehouses, process industries) so no change there. As you higlight, we are not in a position to be picky.

    There have been some ‘high quality’ investments recently also, trouble is ‘high quality’ tends to mean low numbers of jobs:
    http://www.liverpoolvision.co.uk/News/nestl_to_unite_health_operations_in_liverpool.aspx

    http://www.liverpoolvision.co.uk/news/green_light_for_new_redx_cancer_drug_research_unit.aspx

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David Lloyd

    True enough. it’s just the term ‘business friendly’ that sticks in my caw. Business friendly doesn’t necessarily translate to worker friendly, alas.

  • KT

    True, but sadly one of the few ways to get somewhere to invest in a place that might otherwise be unattractive to invest in is by being business friendly. They may treat workers poorly, but so do loads of places, from corner shops (small businesses often treat staff just as poorly as large ones, and there’s often less scope to complain) to Primark to ASDA, but, like Amazon, doesn’t stop the majority continuing to buy with them, especially when they are cheap.

  • Ade

    When will the dreamers and pessimists get a grip?
    We need these types of jobs because the fact is that not everyone will be suited to work in an office, due to temperament and yes, I will say it intelligence!
    The fact is that not everyone is going to earn £40k a year and we should welcome Amazon with open arms.
    Didn’t the same arguments occur when QVC opened and we don’t see headlines about them nowadays do we?

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David Lloyd

    QVC have exemplary working conditions. I totally am with you, we’re not all suited to work in an office – and low-skilled jobs are crucial. But so are workers’ rights, I guess. That’s the only concern. There are good and bad operators in this sector, is my point. QVC good, Amazon – well, even Jeff Bezos has fessed up and said they need to sharpen their act. Jobs at any cost? I’d be wary of that, wouldn’t you?

  • Obewan

    As well as chasing the high profile large corporate inward investment, we should also be looking to help the SME population of the city. There are approximately 1300 small and medium sized business, which can range in size up to 250 employees. If half of them could be helped to take on one or two extra staff, that would be around 1000 more jobs in a more sustainable situation. I have not seen the evidence of where the council are doing anything about SME’s at all.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com Robin Brown

    There’s a startling article I read a few months ago on life as a worker in a shipping outlet. Long, but excellent bit of writing:

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David Lloyd

    We had an owner of an SME saying exactly the same thing last month, Obewan: http://www.sevenstreets.com/talk-and-opinion/living-by-numbers/

  • Jon

    You mention the City Region’s four growth sectors; one of which is Superport. How is Amazon not directly supporting this?

    http://liverpoollep.org/priorities/superport.aspx

  • KT

    Actually, having known several people who work for QVC, they’re hardly a paradise to work for either apparently, people having to share chairs etc, but still employ approx 3,000 people in Knowsley.

    Key thing is I reckon, as people say, we need to go for everything; large-scale inward investment like this, supporting local SMEs and growth in R and D and high tech start ups, all together and you start heading towards something like a viable sustainable economy, which we currently barely have.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David Lloyd

    oh, one bum cheek each?

  • bookend

    I’d rather we saved the libraries from closing in Liverpool

  • Rich

    This can’t be anything other than good news. I understand that people want to see higher paid jobs coming in, but this type of “low hanging fruit” investment is often easier to secure. The lower skills required make the jobs suitable for workers with less experience or with a history of un/under employment. The higher paid jobs are harder to attract and will take time.

    Saying that, sometimes you can’t win. Liverpool One opens, people decry there aren’t jobs going in the poorer suburbs. Secure hundreds of jobs for the poor suburbs, and some people still aren’t happy.

    Secure Regional Growth Funding for high wage posts in bioscience, people complain that the poor get ignored.

    A poorly paid manual job is often the first one people get in their lives. Many move onto other things. Some stick with it. However, these jobs give essential skills that serve people well throughout their lives.

  • James

    The uneducated are unable to be bioscientists, not the poor, and while it is the case that the uneducated are also often poor, their ability to be educated or not lies within their own hands.

    KT mentioned Cambridge, which is the city I instantly thought of as I was reading the article.

    Cambridge is a success because it has an incredibly skilled and educated local population (which in turn attracts both people and business). Which came first? The money or the education? Answer: It doesn’t matter and no one cares. You CAN learn if you are poor.

    The people of this city need to help themselves and they can start by a) if they are parents making sure their kids knuckle down in school and learn and b) if they are young people making sure they knuckle down and learn, because their fate (and the fate of their city) is in their hands more than anyone.

    So what if the building is old and draughty, or two miles away?! Toughen up! Enough with the excuses!

    While not every one is “academic”, not one pupil should be leaving school unable to read, write or do maths, and every one should have acquired at least one useful usable skill, speciality or craft with a qualification that says so.

    Packing jobs are nothing to crow about, instead I would like to see and hear some LEADERSHIP from this council and mayor of ours, to inspire the necessary kind of mentality shift in the population to finally take Liverpool forward!