Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a record of prioritizing the interests of big business over the public. Today, in the midst of a health crisis, Trudeau has once again chosen the most despicable private actors over public institutions.

The federal government has masks, test kits, ventilators and other essential equipment it needs to get to provinces and territories so they can effectively respond to COVID-19. Instead of relying on Canada Post and its unionized workforce to make those deliveries, Trudeau announced that the government signed a contract with Amazon Canada. 

This demonstrates how little the government truly cares about frontline workers keeping the country running.

Amazon is notorious for how terribly it treats its workers. There are stories of warehouse workers: having to pee in bottles because management will write them up over bathroom breaks; fainting because the company refused to provide air conditioning; having more than double the rate of serious injuries as the national average because they’re treated as little more than robots. 

The company’s delivery drivers don’t make out much better. They’re contractors with low pay, no job security and forced to accept terrible working conditions. This is how Amazon is able to drive down its delivery costs.

The attention Amazon has received since the COVID-19 crisis started escalating doesn’t make it look any better. The company did raise wages by $2 an hour, but as an Amazon worker told journalist Justine van der Leun, “An extra two dollars an hour to risk my life? I mean, I’ll take the money, but I do feel like my life is worth more.” 

That’s not an overstatement: Workers are risking their lives to get packages out the door because Amazon won’t give them proper support.

Workers in Staten Island and Detroit walked out earlier this week because the company hasn’t provided enough cleaning and protective equipment, overcrowded the warehouses and, in most cases, refused to close them for cleaning after workers tested positive for COVID-19. 

Chris Smalls, an assistant manager at the Staten Island warehouse and organizer of Monday’s walkout, explained that management even tried to stop workers from being told that their coworker had tested positive.

Instead of addressing workers’ concerns, Amazon responded by firing Smalls. Notes from a meeting of Amazon leadership, including CEO Jeff Bezos, have even leaked showing how they smeared Smalls as “not smart or articulate,” and crafted a PR strategy to try to discredit workers demanding better conditions.

This isn’t just happening south of the border. As Sara Mojtehedzadeh reported for the Toronto Star, workers at an Amazon warehouse in the Greater Toronto Area are “deeply concerned about health and safety.” They told Mojtehedzadeh they were putting in 50 or more hours a week, the warehouse was overcrowded, there weren’t enough masks and the rules on paid sick leave were unclear. 

Yet this is the company that Trudeau and the Liberal government are working with, instead of tasking Canada Post’s unionized workforce to deliver essential supplies.

Trudeau has never been an ally to Canada Post. 

He broke his promise to restore door-to-door delivery, and refused to consider plans to expand into postal banking, which would give Canadians an alternative to the predatory private banks and make services available in communities without bank branches. 

But, worst of all, he legislated postal workers back to work in 2018 instead of supporting them in their demands for job security, better health and safety, an end to mandatory overtime, and equality for rural and suburban mail carriers.

Facing the threat of COVID-19, warehouse and delivery workers are some of the essential people being put at risk to keep everyone else home. Our government should be ensuring these workers can expect to be safe on the job. At the very least, it shouldn’t be working with a company known for abusing its workers, especially when we have a Crown corporation better equipped for the job. 

It’s very disturbing that even in a crisis, the Liberals are putting the interests of major corporations before those of workers.

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