A Dollarama store inside of a mall.
A Dollarama store inside of a mall. Credit: Rowanlovescars / Wikimedia Commons Credit: Rowanlovescars / Wikimedia Commons

Dollarama is exerting pressure on their warehouse workers in Montreal that are akin to the notoriously intense  pressures reported in Amazon warehouses. In a report released this month by le Groupe interuniversitaire et interdisciplinaire de recherche sur l’emploi (GIREPS), the working conditions for Montreal warehouse workers at Amazon and Dollarama were laid bare. 

“These two companies, Dollorama and Amazon, employ the largest amount of non-unionized workers in Montreal’s warehouse sector. These enterprises are emblematic of this sector and the problems that are documented in it,” GIREPS wrote in their report, which is currently only available in French. 

A survey conducted for this report indicated that a larger percentage of Dollarama warehouse workers in Montreal are reporting negative health effects from their labour conditions than Amazon warehouse workers. 

When asked if work schedules negatively affected their health, 75.7 per cent of Dollarama warehouse workers responded yes while 69.7 per cent of Amazon workers gave the same response. 

GIREPS’ survey found that over 80 per cent of Dollarama warehouse workers “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they face a heightened chance of workplace accidents or injuries. At Amazon, 69.7 per cent of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed.”

If the GIREPS claim is true and if Montreal warehouses are emblematic of the larger warehouse sector, this could indicate that poor work conditions and health concerns at Dollarama are outpacing the same issues at Amazon, where reports became so alarming that investors chose to push for a labour review in the company.  

Amazon warehouse conditions are at risk of becoming normalized throughout the industry. A release by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) highlighted fears at the bargaining table related to Amazon. 

“The strenuous pace and robotic quality of the work, combined with an injury rate nearly double the industry standard, mean that Amazon has turnover amongst its hourly warehousing and delivery employees of 150 percent per year,” CUPW wrote on their website. “With no unions to keep them in check, Amazon continues to chew up and spit out workers.” 

CUPW, who began their collective bargaining in late November, said they are concerned that the Canada Post Corporation will table concessions that could bring harsher work conditions to Canada Post. The Canada Post Corporation is likely to adjust their working conditions to provide delivery speeds that are competitive with Amazon, CUPW said. 

“As CUPW negotiates with [Canada Post Corporation], we are also negotiating with Amazon,” CUPW said. “Any concessions to shorter delivery times, decreased worker protections or increased employee surveillance are tacit agreements to operate under the Amazon business model. To maintain the quality, security, and democracy of our jobs, we must resist Amazon’s greed and disregard for workers suffering.”

The GIREPS report also highlighted the need to fight the urge to allow Amazon conditions to become the norm.

“In the case of Amazon warehouse in Italy, workers – including those hired on temporary basis – benefitted from the protection of a national sectoral agreement and fixed salaries, minimum provisions on social benefits and rules regarding the rhythm of production that must be respected at the bargaining table,” GIREPS wrote in French.

Fighting the normalization of Amazon-like working conditions is not hopeless. The GIREPS report highlights that workers and allies can get involved with the Make Amazon Pay movement to continue to push for improved working conditions.

Gabriela Calugay-Casuga

Gabriela “Gabby” Calugay-Casuga (she/they) is a writer and activist based in so-called “Ottawa.” They began writing for Migrante Ottawa’s radio show, Talakayang Bayan, in 2017. Since then, she...