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.