The president of an agency that works with Hamilton labourers and unions says he’s “critically optimistic” about Amazon’s announcement to build an 855,000 square-foot fulfillment centre adjacent to John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport.
Anthony Marco says the move to bring more jobs to the city is “great,” but he does have concern over potential precarious employment and the quality of the jobs that will be offered by the online giant.
“The thing that I always look at when I hear about the word jobs is full-time jobs versus decent jobs,” Marco said.
“Governments will often put out stats with how many jobs they’re creating on a month by month basis and many of them are precarious jobs. Many of them might last for three or four months.”
Marco’s first concern is with wages for fulfillment centre labourers which average around $16 per hour, based on data from Indeed and payscale.com for non-seasonal roles.
“Amazon’s average salaries across Canada are $16.26 an hour, which is currently less than Hamilton’s living wage,” said Marco.
“The amount of money it takes just to live in Hamilton and pay the rents that we have here now is $16.45 an hour. Amazon’s average salary currently is less than that.”
Marvin Ryder, assistant professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at McMaster University, says wages in the ballpark of $16 to $17 per hour for someone boxing books, electronics and toys on a warehouse floor is probably likely when the new centre opens up in 2021.
However, he says that’s not the lowest possible wage a worker could make with Ontario’s minimum set to become $14.25 per hour in October.
Benefits and potential job security in light of an ongoing pandemic might look quite attractive to a lot of labourers, according to an optimistic Ryder.
“So Amazon doesn’t look like it’s been affected by COVID-19,” Ryder said.
“If you were thinking that I might not have a future with this restaurant or I might not have a future in that retail store. These Amazon positions would probably be slightly better-paying jobs with a better future prospect attached to them.”
In its release on Wednesday, Amazon said close to 1,500 new employees will be hired when construction of both the Mount Hope and Stoney Creek facilities are complete.
Positions include picking, packing and shipping customer orders, in addition to some finance administrators and human resources personnel.
“Full-time employees at Amazon receive competitive hourly wages, including medical, vision and dental coverage, a group RRSP plan, stock awards, and performance-based bonuses starting on day one,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
Amazon currently employs more than 21,000 full- and part-time employees at fulfillment centres, and corporate offices across Canada, and boasted that it in 2019 it created an estimated 24,000 jobs at other associated firms.
Of further concern to Marco is what the retailer will bring to the community beyond just jobs. As an example, he says although there is an HSR transit centre just a kilometre away from the proposed site, he believes the city will have to alter existing bus schedules to accommodate Amazon workers and that could result in a cost to taxpayers.
“These workers are probably going to be people that are gonna be coming from the downtown area or the north end of the city,” said Marco.
“If that’s going to be the case, they need a way to get up there. Even if you had a bus route up there already, you’re talking about an hour to an hour just to get out that far via public transit.”
Ryder says such “indirect costs” does raise an interesting question and that the city might have to put out an additional “bus or two,” but believes it would be a “small and marginal” cost.
“We haven’t had to mortgage the farm to get Amazon to come here,” said Ryder, “It’s not like they’re plunking this down in a place the city wasn’t planning to see growth. It would be part of a plan that they were going to do anyway.”
Amazon also announced a new location in Ajax, Ont., which will employ more than 1,000 workers who will pack and ship larger items such as sports equipment, patio furniture, pet food and other household goods.
The new facilities are the company’s ninth and tenth in Ontario and the 15th and 16th fulfillment centres in Canada.
Amazon has not revealed hard dates for the opening of either the Mount Hope facility or a delivery station in Stoney Creek but did say they are projected to begin operation by mid to late 2021.