The union representing workers at Amazon’s Australian facilities has said it is concerned that the reported global surveillance of its workforce could be in breach of Australia’s right to assemble laws.
Vice News on Tuesday detailed the contents of two-dozen leaked documents from Amazon’s global security operations centre demonstrating team members getting updates from around the world on labour organising activities in warehouses, how many workers attended union meetings and theft by workers in warehouses.
The report also suggested Amazon hired the infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency, a subsidiary of Swedish company Securitas AB to work in the warehouses and monitor workers.
Guardian Australia has not seen the documents to independently verify them, but the Vice report suggests the practice occurs all over the world where Amazon has staff, including Australia.
The union representing workers in Amazon’s workplaces in Australia, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association, has been seeking union involvement in those workplaces, and has a presence in all of Amazon’s fulfilment centres in Australia.
Related: Amazon denies it planned to spy on workers in Sydney to stop them unionising
The New South Wales secretary of the SDA, Bernie Smith, said the practice of monitoring workers to see if they were organising, if true, could be in breach of Australian law.
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“If it is illegal in Australia it should not be allowed to be conducted from overseas,” he said.
“It would appear that what is being alleged could breach Australian freedom of association laws.”
He said the SDA was committed to ensuring workers at Amazon sites in Australia were able to organise.
“The SDA is continually organising workers at Amazon fulfilment centres in Australia.”
When Guardian Australia sought comment from Amazon’s local representatives, a spokeswoman passed on the statement provided to Vice, stating all security operations activities were “fully in line with local laws”.
“Any attempt to sensationalize these activities or suggest we’re doing something unusual or wrong is irresponsible and incorrect.”
When asked about whether Amazon was monitoring its Australian workers from outside of Australia seemingly to bypass local laws, Guardian Australia did not receive a response.
The NSW parliament is currently reviewing the impact of technology on the future of work, and while the inquiry has so far focused on delivery riders working for companies such as Uber Eats and DoorDash, the SDA called out the alleged workplace surveillance undertaken by Amazon in its submission to the inquiry.
“This behaviour, which would be illegal in Australia should not be permitted because the monitoring is happening in another jurisdiction,” the SDA said. “Workplace surveillance laws must be updated to prohibit monitoring of lawful industrial activity, to account for new technologies and where necessary to permit the extra jurisdictional operation of such laws.”
The inquiry will hold its next hearings in February and March 2021.
The SDA has activities planned around Amazon’s Black Friday sales event this week, and is also in the federal court on behalf of a female union member who alleges she was denied permanent employment at Amazon after disclosing she was pregnant.