Amazon’s Unrestrained Power Is a Threat to the European Social Model

Monday 7 September 2020

Using Amazon as an example of how dominant online platforms use their vast market power to avoid taxes, squeeze small and medium-sized businesses, engage in price dumping and drag down labour conditions, UNI Global Union and UNI Europa submitted a sweeping set of recommendations to the European Commission to ensure that the Digital Services Act (DSA) protects workers’ rights and upholds the European social model.  To do so, the labour federations believe the DSA should curtail the dominant position of multinational digital conglomerates.

The policy paper, submitted as one of UNI Europa’s three contributions to the European Commission’s consultation, describes how Amazon’s anticompetitive practices and lower labour standards pose a threat to the market in which the tech giant operates and erodes the European social economic model that the European institutions are mandated to uphold. Amazon’s explosive growth has also exposed the company’s notorious anti-union stance globally. After years of under-enforcement or inefficient application of existing competition laws, the combined and massively exploited market power of a small number of overly dominant gatekeepers has resulted in a global awakening in favour of regulating these powerful conglomerates to correct market disfunctions and benefit sellers, consumers and workers alike.

“Amazon is exhibit A of why we need strong regulation to counterbalance the rising market power of the ‘Big Tech’ players, in particular the “GAFA” group (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple). We are asking the Commission to step up so that future generations benefit from free and competitive online markets, but also that workers’ conditions are not degraded by a handful of mammoth companies that can brush aside Europe’s social partnership model,” said Oliver Roethig UNI Europa Regional Secretary.

“There are numerous, serious competition and social concerns that can only be addressed effectively through targeted regulation. It is critical for the European Commission to enact rules that further the goals of a social market economy. This includes the direct or indirect strengthening of workers’ rights,” Roethig continued.

The EU’s Digital Services Act is the EU’s attempt to regulate the online ecosystem, updating the 2000 eCommerce directive. The full coverage of the package is currently being negotiated but it will cover content and user moderation as well as new competition rules for so-called gatekeeper platforms. The European Commission is due to present its plans in December 2020. Public consultations on the plans are ongoing until 8 September.

“With a Digital Services Act that puts people—not multinational tech companies—first, the European Union will deepen its leadership in the urgent global push to put in check the growth and monopolistic power of Amazon and other giant digital platforms. In Europe and across the world, these corporation are squeezing hardworking people and hoarding our data while benefiting just the few,” said Christy Hoffman UNI Global Union General Secretary. “The time to give the DSA the teeth it needs to police the ‘digital Wild West’ and create a level playing field is now.”

Representing more than 20 million workers in 150 countries—including the 7 million workers of UNI Europa, the European services workers union —UNI Global Union is driven by the responsibility to ensure skills and service jobs are decent jobs and that workers’ rights are protected, including the right of union representation and collective bargaining.

Read the full submission to the consultation here: Accounting for Workers’ Rights When Regulating Amazon & Other Giants

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