Amazon updates

The latest updates on Amazon. The global giant forces sellers to pay its Digital Services Tax and is accused of firing whistleblowers.

Amazon forces sellers to pay its Digital Services Tax

Amazon has increased the fees paid by small businesses and other sellers on its site to pass on the cost of the Digital Services Tax introduced by the UK Government from 1st September.

The company, which has a market value of over $1 trillion, increased UK fees by 2%, matching the new taxation. By passing the taxes on to its users, Amazon is directly forcing small businesses to pay the cost of its tax avoidance.

38 Degrees says,

“By the time you finish this sentence, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos will have made £12,000 ... At a time when these businesses are struggling to get by, it’s an indefensible decision.”

The Digital Services Tax is aimed at ensuring that search engines, social media services and online marketplaces like Amazon are paying their share of taxes.

It follows ongoing repeated criticism of Amazon for its tax avoidance practices. In 2018, the company paid just £220 million in direct UK taxes, despite revenues in the country amounting to £10.9 billion. 

We recently estimated that the UK had lost over £1 billion in taxes from the profit shifting of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon in 2017.

Companies generally pay taxes based on the amount of profit they register in a country. But because tech companies often trade in intangible things like patents that can be located anywhere, it is easy for them to register their profits in tax havens and avoid paying in higher tax countries even if they have substantial business there.

The Digital Services Tax instead looks at sales made in a country – making it an important step towards taxing tech companies fairly.

Ethical Consumer has a boycott call against Amazon for its tax avoidance.

We are also campaigning for the digital service tax to be increased to 10%, to ensure that those profiting from the coronavirus pandemic are also helping bear the cost – see our feature

Amazon accused of firing whistleblowers

Amazon has been accused of firing employees in America who have spoken out about unsafe conditions in the company’s warehouses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Campaigners say that at least six workers have already been fired and others face ongoing retaliation.

In March, Chris Smalls was fired after he led a walk-out at a New York Amazon facility, demanding that the warehouse be closed for cleaning after one of its workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Also, in March, Courtney Bowden was fired after pushing for paid time off for part-time workers and Gerald Bryson was fired after being involved in two protests over worker safety in Staten Island.

In April, user experience designers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were sacked after circulating a petition within the company about health risks for Amazon warehouse workers during the pandemic.

Bashir Mohamed was fired after circulating paper petitions in English and Somali about the impossibility of practising social distancing at a Minnesota facility where he worked.

Amazon claims that Mohamed, Bryson, Borden and Smalls were sacked for a range of issues, including vulgar language and failing to comply with social distancing practices.

However, it has acknowledged that Cunningham and Costa were fired for “repeatedly violating internal policies” that prohibit employees from commenting publicly on its business without approval from executives.

They had previously received warnings for speaking out about the company’s poor climate record with campaign group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.

Athena Coalition, a campaign network tackling Amazon, says

“We are concerned that Amazon has developed a pattern of surveillance, targeting, and firing of whistleblowers around the country”.

It says that others are facing ongoing retaliation.

Democratic senators including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have sent a letter to the company asking about its conduct. The New York state attorney general has said that the company may have broken the state’s whistleblower law.

One of the company’s Vice Presidents and senior engineers Tim Bray has also quit over concerns following the dismissals, which he suggested exposed a “vein of toxicity running through the company culture”.

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