EletiofeAmazon Just Got Banned From the EU Parliament

Amazon Just Got Banned From the EU Parliament

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Amazon has become the second company ever to have its lobbyists banned from the European Parliament, amid accusations that the company does not take the institution seriously.

The ban, which means the 14 Amazon employees who had access to the European Parliament can no longer enter the building without an invitation, follows the company’s decision not to attend a January hearing about working conditions inside its fulfillment centers. In December, Amazon also rejected MEPs’ [members of European Parliament] requests to tour its fulfillment centers, citing how busy they were over the Christmas period.

“This is not a serious way to treat the European Parliament,” says Dragoș Pîslaru, the Romanian MEP and chair of the Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, who formally requested the ban. “We are representing 500 million citizens and it is not a joke. You cannot just say that your senior representatives are not available when the parliament is asking you.”

Companies originating outside Europe should take the EU Parliament as seriously as the US Congress, he adds. “The European Parliament is not holding grudges,” he says. “This is about us requesting to be respected as an institution.”

The row has erupted as concerns about working conditions in Amazon fulfillment centers are mounting in Europe. In January, the French data protection authority fined Amazon €32 million ($34 million) for operating what it called an “excessively intrusive system for monitoring employee activity.” In November, Amazon workers in Germany and Italy walked off the job on Black Friday to demand better pay and working conditions. Amazon says it has 150,000 employees within the EU.

“The fact that Amazon refuses to come and present their arguments whenever we call them is worrying,” says Pîslaru. “This is not my subjective opinion. This is based on how the parliament should work.”

Pîslaru first requested Amazon’s lobbying permits be revoked in a February 6 letter sent to the parliament’s president, following Amazon’s January no-show. “This issue extends beyond disrespect for the European parliament; it concerns the well-being, fundamental rights and working conditions of hundreds of thousands of Europeans working in Amazon warehouses,” he wrote in that letter. It is unreasonable for Amazon to lobby MEPs while denying them the right to probe the company’s labor practices, the letter added.

The idea to ban Amazon’s lobbyist had been around since 2021, when the company first rejected a European Parliament invite to attend another hearing on working conditions, says Pîslaru. But following his February letter, the European Parliament confirmed last night that access badges for Amazon lobbyists would be revoked. That means Amazon becomes the second company ever to have their access to the European Parliament revoked, following a ban on Roundup-maker Monsanto in 2017. The Monsanto ban lasted until the company was acquired by Bayer the following year.

In a statement published on its website, Amazon said it was “disappointed” by the decision. The company described the January hearing, which it did not attend, as “one sided and not designed to encourage constructive debate.” The company said it had extended “dozens of invitations” to visit its facilities to committee members and staff. On February 5, Amazon wrote to Pîslaru, inviting his committee to visit one of its 80 European fulfillment centers. However, official EU missions aren’t allowed to take place so close to the EU’s June elections, says Pîslaru. “They were seemingly open to inviting us, knowing that we cannot go.”

Amazon’s lobbying passes can be reinstated once the EU’s employment committee says the company is showing genuine willingness to cooperate, says Pîslaru. That is unlikely to happen before the elections, as MEPs rush to wrap-up unfinished legislation and prepare their campaigns. Until their passes are reinstated, Amazon lobbyists can only enter the EU Parliament if they are invited by people working inside. “They can still lobby individual MEPs and they can meet them outside of the parliament,” says Bram Vranken, a researcher focusing on Big Tech at campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory. “It’s mostly a really important political signal that the company went too far.”

For Vranken, the ban is a good first step. “We would like to see the ban made permanent and extended to all Big Tech companies,” he says, adding this would prevent those companies from watering down crucial legislation.

“Having a permanent ban is not necessarily justified,” says Pîslaru. “Unless, of course, their behavior continues to mock the institution in the future.”

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