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UNI Forum addresses crucial questions posed by rapid growth of E-Commerce

At the UNI E-Commerce Forum hosted by the CWU in Dublin, trade unionists from all over the world addressed some of the crucial questions emerging from the dramatic growth of E-Commerce. E-Commerce is one of the fastest growing and most hierarchical markets in the international economy. In many ways, the shift towards a digital economy has meant that there is a smaller market for traditional commerce and post and logistics companies.
Later this week, UNI Global Union will hold its World Post and Logistics Conference in Dublin at the Croke Park Conference Centre. Over 260 delegates from 50 countries, representing over 2 million postal and logistics workers, will assemble to examine the impacts of e-commerce on the post and logistics sector.
E-Commerce is driving a huge and irreversible shift in how businesses and consumers interact. This presents major challenges to the business models of national postal service providers and to traditional shopping trends. The forum examined the implications of these changes for the trade union movement, and how postal and logistic, commerce and ICTS sector unions represent and protect the pay and working conditions of workers.
General Secretary of CWU Ireland Steve Fitzpatrick said, “It’s important now that we have a collaborative, cross-sectoral approach to this market. We can no longer talk about encroaching on other sectors - we must work together across the Postal, Commerce and ICTS sectors to organise.”
“The conversations that we have here are fundamental for the future,” said Stephen DeMatteo, Head of UNI Post and Logistics. “There is no way to stop the evolution of e-commerce and its subsequent effect on the world of work. We must therefore adapt.”
“The fundamental goal of this forum is to prepare for the future with our affiliates, and to try and answer some of the questions posed by the growth of e-commerce.”
“We need a cross-sectoral, integrated approach to tackle the emerging issues posed by a rapidly changing e-commerce market,” said Alke Boessiger, the newly appointed Head of ICTS (former Head of Commerce.
“UNI will continue to improve international solidarity between unions. With international unity, we can fight for better wages and working conditions for workers at companies like Amazon.”
The forum featured the presentation of a new report from Peterloo Research. Focused on the growth of e-commerce and what it means for the traditional “brick and mortar” businesses, the report raises some crucial questions facing the labour movement. Does the growth of e-commerce mean the death of the high street? How do you collectively bargain with a website? How do we interact with workers who are internationally disparate?
According to research, although this technological has a different face to previous ones, the fundamentals remain the same. These “digisharks”, such as Amazon, Alibaba and others exploit the workforce by subcontracting, outsourcing and lowering labour costs through unscrutinised legal loopholes. Workers at e-commerce giants such as Amazon are subject to difficult working conditions with practices such as “dataveillance” contributing to long term health deterioration and safety issues.
The forum also saw detailed presentations from affiliates on the situations in their countries and how e-commerce had changed the game in their sectors and regions.