TWU attacks, Amazon defends as Flex arrives

By: Rob McKay

Union points to overseas report as parent firm says regulation exists

TWU attacks, Amazon defends as Flex arrives
An Amazon image of the Flex service


The Transport Workers Union (TWU) accuses Amazon of safety shortcomings overseas for its Flex initiative, newly launched in Australia.

The TWU deplores the advent of AF, now extant in New South Wales and Victoria, and reiterates its call for gig economy regulation, but the global retail and services firm says regulations are already in place.

"Australians should not underestimate the very real public safety risk ruthless and exploitative operators like Amazon Flex pose," TWU national secretary Michael Kaine says, pointing to a New York Times investigation that identifies more than 60 accidents and 10 deaths since 2015 involving Amazon delivery contractors.

That such contractors use their own vehicles is also criticised.

"There are licensing standards for a reason – road transport is the deadliest industry in terms of workplace deaths with around 200 people killed in truck crashes each year," Kaine says.

"Amazon Flex doesn’t just exploit drivers, with poor pay and no conditions, it risks public safety because unskilled delivery drivers will be on the roads delivering potentially large packages with little experience or training in how to do this safely. 

"It is exploitative. It requires no investment from Amazon and contributes nothing to Australia's transport infrastructure other than adding more congestion to our roads and undercutting delivery driver standards.

"Amazon Flex drivers, just like Uber drivers or food delivery riders, cannot set rates and are entirely directed by an algorithm which allocat­es work based on an arbitrary ratings system.

"The government could act today, by implementing federal regulation to improve conditions and protect against the dangerous business models of multinationals that have no interest in their workers.

"Meanwhile, the Senate inquiry into road transportation must consider the impact Amazon Flex and other gig economy freight operators will have on the industry, particularly its sustainability and safety." 

Read about the launch of Amazon Flex and who is running it, here

But Amazon insists internal and external safeguards exist.

Safety is our top priority and we have a range of processes in place to ensure this.

"All Amazon Flex participants must have a full, valid driver’s license and will undergo a background check to ensure a safe driving record," an Amazon spokesperson tells ATN.

"It is a fundamental requirement that all delivery partners comply with all safety requirements including applicable road safety and driving laws. 

"In all cases, our delivery blocks are designed to ensure drivers have ample time to deliver their packages and we expect that the vast majority of packages will be delivered with time to spare. 

"Amazon Flex is different to most other gig economy platforms in that its operations are already highly regulated by state owner-driver legislation in both Victoria and NSW.

"These laws create standards and protections for drivers – these include regulations on minimum remuneration, methods for dispute resolution and the like."


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