After collecting dozens of testimonies from Dollarama and Amazon warehouse workers in the Montreal region, a researcher pulls no punches: these companies take advantage of the vulnerability of recent immigrants to maximize their profits.
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“These workers are considered disposable labor,” says Martine D’Amours, sociologist and associate professor of industrial relations at Laval University.
The study that she directed and which was carried out by the Interuniversity and Interdisciplinary Research Group on Employment, Poverty and Social Protection (GIREPS), the Center for Immigrant Workers (CTI) and the Workers’ Association and employment agency workers (ATTAP) is based on recent testimonies from 70 warehouse workers: 37 at Dollarama and 33 at Amazon.
Dollarama distribution center in Mont-Royal
Google Maps screenshot
“People describe Dollarama’s warehouses as dusty, poorly lit, without enough space to move around,” says M.me Of Loves. Next to that, the Amazon model looks wow! It’s well lit, the spaces are larger, but what they describe to us are the long shifts [10 heures par jour] and, above all, productivity quotas which are literally inhumane. We squeeze the lemon and I would even tell you that we try to choose the lemons with the most juice.”
A high proportion of warehouse workers at both companies were born outside of Canada: this is the case for 100% of study respondents at Dollarama and 85% of them at Amazon.
Amazon distribution center in Longueuil
Photo Francis Halin
“The pool of people who need to work and who are ready to accept these conditions is always supplied by [l’arrivée] of people with precarious migratory statuses,” notes Martine D’Amours.
At Dollarama, “the majority of warehouse labor needs […] is outsourced to external agencies,” acknowledges a spokesperson for the company, Lyla Radmanovich, without specifying the number of people concerned.
- Listen to Isabelle Maréchal’s column on the price of food at Dollarama via QUB radio :
“Dollarama is committed to providing an inclusive, safe and efficient work environment for all workers by applying consistent routines while constantly striving to optimize its operations and processes for continuous improvement,” she adds. .
The fact remains that agency workers do not benefit from social benefits. One of the people interviewed by the authors of the study was not aware of his right to have paid leave. Another said she sometimes had to leave before the end of her shift, depriving her of income.
The median hourly wage of respondents was $20 at Dollarama and $19 at Amazon, which is within the industry average. In unionized warehouses, such as those of Metro, Loblaws and Sysco, however, wages can reach $30 an hour.
The majority of respondents said they feared injury due in particular to the high pace of work. However, Dollarama and Amazon warehouses are the subject of fewer complaints to the CNESST than other similar, but unionized, workplaces.
To explain this surprising situation, the researchers cite the vulnerability of workers at Dollarama and Amazon, which would discourage the reporting of injuries. At Amazon, the problem would be accentuated by the internal care system, AmCare.
The Caisse, well present at Dollarama
Mme D’Amours believes that it is primarily up to Dollarama and Amazon to improve the working conditions of workers. “These are successful companies, so one would expect that the gains would be better redistributed with the workers,” she says.
The Caisse de dépôt is the largest shareholder of Dollarama with a stake of nearly 5% which is currently worth more than $1 billion. The institution does not want to say whether it intends to address the GIREPS relationship with the company.
“Over the years, Dollarama has been open and receptive to our comments and has demonstrated a desire to evolve its practices,” simply indicates a spokesperson for the Caisse, Kate Monfette.
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson, Ryma Boussoufa, noted that the study’s respondents “represent less than 1% of our employees in Montreal.”
“Amazon does not establish fixed quotas in its facilities,” she continues. We prefer to evaluate performance based on realistic expectations that do not present any danger, as well as taking into account the employee’s seniority, the performance of their peers and their compliance with safe work practices.