Danish pension funds Sampension, PenSam and PKA said they are in dialogue with Amazon about basic labour rights in light of several cases that they said showed there were big problems at the internet giant around the issue.
In a joint statement, the pension funds said: “The background for the initiative is that there have been several cases which paint a picture of serious challenges with labour rights at Amazon.”
Sampension, PenSam and PKA – themselves based on cooperation between labour organisations and employers – said cases included an attempt by the online retailer to have the first US union for Amazon employees, in New York City, declared illegal.
The pension funds said these cases did not harmonise well with the principles of Amazon’s global human rights principles regarding labour rights which were published in March.
In these principles, the funds said, it appeared that Amazon supported international conventions when it came to the right to organise in trade unions and bargain collectively.
“Therefore, the three Danish pension companies now want Amazon to prepare a report that shows how the company concretely ensures its employees’ right to organise within a trade union and negotiate wages and working conditions collectively,” the pension funds said.
Back in April, Amazon called for an election to be conducted again after workers at a New York City warehouse voted to create the company’s first US union, claiming that the US labour board and worker-organisers had suppressed turnout.
The allegations were rejected by the Amazon Labor Union.
Amazon made no comment to IPE about the statement from the Danish pension funds directly, but a spokesperson for the company said more generally about collective bargaining that employees had always had the choice of whether or not to join a union.
“Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes – quickly,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the benefits of direct relationships between managers and employees could not be overstated, adding that those relationships allowed every employee’s voice to be heard, “not just the voices of a select few”.
Jacob Ehlerth Jørgensen, head of ESG at Sampension, said: “We naturally attach great importance to labour rights at the companies in which we invest.
“That is why we are very concerned about the many cases in which Amazon is accused of not living up to its obligations in relation to labour rights, which also seems very far removed from the company’s own principles in the area,” he said.
At PKA, Dewi Dylander, deputy director and head of ESG, said it was worrying when one of the world’s largest companies with more than a million and a half employees did not respect basic workers’ rights.
“As investors and representatives of Danish wage earners, we cannot sit idly by,” she said.
“Amazon has historically been closed about its approach to labour rights, but now we sense an opening so we can talk to them about these problems with a united Danish voice,” said Dylander.
The pension funds said they voted in favour of a shareholder proposal at Amazon’s general meeting in May that the company prepare a report describing how it ensured worker rights.
They said that proposal had been backed by 38% of the company’s share capital, showing “there is a movement under way, where more and more investors are putting pressure on Amazon when it comes to labour rights”.