Roma - In Italy, Amazon’s patent for a wireless bracelet to speed up employees’ retrieval of products stored in warehouses has generated a controversy that has not yet subsided.
Minister of Economic Development, Carlo Calenda, has made it clear that such bracelets will never be used in Italy, and the company defends itself again: these are just misleading speculations. Another back and forth between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Italy’s Democratic Party (DP). For M5S members, the Jobs Act is to blame, but the Dems reply: not true, it does not permit remote monitoring.
During the meeting with Amazon at the Ministry of Economic Development, Calenda was clear: “I explained, and they understood, that something like that - which is not in use but has been patented - will never exist in Italy.” He added, “I explained to them that the only bracelets we use in this country are those made by our jewellers, which are beautiful.” Calenda also pointed out that regarding new investments “which we are happy with and I said that their main purpose should be the quality of work and personnel.”
But Amazon replied today: “Speculations about the use of this patent are misleading,” the company announced in a press release, “Every day, in companies around the world, employees use handheld scanners to ship orders and for inventory control. This idea, if it is implemented in the future, will be done in full compliance with laws and regulations, with the sole aim of improving the day-to-day work of our employees at distribution centres. By moving the equipment to employees’ wrists,” the company explained, “hands are freed from the use of scanners and eyes no longer have to look at a screen. All the technologies that we have implemented to date have contributed to improving working conditions at our distribution centres.”
Antonello Soro, the President of the Italian Data Protection Authority took part in the debate: Amazon’s electronic bracelet “would be in conflict with the regulations on data protection not only in Italy but also in Europe,” he told Radio Radicale. “I think and hope that this idea will be challenged elsewhere,” Soro explained, “It would be in conflict with data protection regulations not only in Italy, but also in Europe.” Politically, it’s a hot topic. Luigi Di Maio said: “If in Italy you can put devices on workers to control them, it is thanks to the Job acts, and I understand PD affiliates are saying, “what does Di Maio say about them?”. I’m against a measure that would allow even partly State-owned companies to put chips in workers’ shoes or use bracelets to monitor their employees. It’s incredible that the PD, which passed a law to allow transponders being put on human beings, is now criticising Amazon”.
The Ministry of Labour replied in a press release: “The Jobs Act has adjusted the regulations contained in the Workers’ Statute - which date back to 1970 - to the technological innovations that have occurred in the meantime. And so the regulation has not ‘liberalized’ monitoring, but has clarified the concept of ‘remote monitoring tools’ and the limits on the use of data collected through these devices, in line with the indications that the Data Protection Authority has provided in recent years. Matteo Salvini, for his part, let it be known that he asked for a meeting with the director of the Amazon warehouse “to see whether they were using men and women as robots.” “I was contacted by some of the company’s workers, I would like to visit the company to meet the workers: I understand that they give you a fine if you eat a piece of candy, and that they set a minimum of four packages per minute. If that is true, it is not work, and it has no dignity. And every package shipped from the distribution centre is a shop that will be closing”, the Lega Nord secretary told Telelombardia.
Before the committee meeting at the Ministry of Infrastructure (MISE), the company’s top management met with Minister of Labour, Giuliano Poletti, and Deputy Secretary to the Presidency of the Council, De Micheli, a meeting that took place in a constructive atmosphere: Amazon declared its willingness to resume discussions with the trade unions at the local level, while the Government will also continue to support this dialogue through the Prefect of Piacenza. “The confirmation of these investments and Amazon’s openness to the trade union talks is good news. We will now wait to see what the company really does,” tweeted CISL secretary general, Annamaria Furlan.