Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/08/15/amazon_faces_tribunal_over_trade/

Amazon faces tribunal over ‘trade union’ sacking

Dotcom under the spotlight

By Tim Richardson

Posted in Business, 15th August 2003 16:19 GMT

A former employee of Amazon.co.uk has appeared before an employment tribunal in Bedford claiming that he was dismissed for wanting to join a trade union.

Alex Ferguson claims he was sacked three days after bosses found out he was thinking of joining a trade union.

Amazon.co.uk "strongly refutes" Mr Ferguson's claim, insisting he was dismissed from his job "solely as a result of poor performance".

At an interim hearing, which finished today, Mr Ferguson attempted to win reinstatement in his job prior to a full tribunal hearing which is due to be held at the end of October. However, his request was rejected by the tribunal.

A spokeswoman for Amazon.co.uk told The Register: "We're pleased that the tribunal indicated that Mr Ferguson is not likely to succeed at a full hearing."

However, Amazon's take on today's ruling was rejected by the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G), which insists the case will go all the way.

A spokeswoman for the T&G, which is backing Mr Ferguson, said: "We firmly believe we've got a case against Amazon for targeting employees wanting to join a trade union."

Amazon's relationship with trade unions has come under fire in the past with some branding it an "anti-union employer". Amazon denies this, claiming that it's up to individual employees to decide about union representation.

However, it's clear that Amazon prefers to keep unions at arm's length. In a statement the company said: "This is a fast moving business - we need to maintain our flexibility so we can continue to react quickly to our customers' needs. We don't believe union representation of our employees will enable us to do that."

In September 2001, Amazon staff in the UK were balloted on union recognition, but voted against it by a large majority. Instead, the company operates a "democratically elected Works Council" which Amazon claims represents the interests of employees.

"This ensures managers and employees work closely together. We don't want a third-party coming between us and our employees. We want to stay close to our staff," said Amazon. ®