News that e-commerce giant Amazon is opening a warehouse and distribution centre in Dartmouth, N.S., isn’t fazing some of the province’s business and labour groups.
Amazon has not yet publicly announced the move to 180 Thornhill Dr. in Burnside, but Dartmouth councillor Tony Mancini confirmed it in an email.
“It has been confirmed they are opening a location in Burnside. I don’t have any more information,” he said. “Amazon was to make an announcement last week but it didn’t happen.”
The facility is slated to employ about 300 people but it’s unclear when it will open. Amazon did not respond to a media request from Global News.
Danny Cavanagh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, had mixed feelings about the future facility.
“In some respects, it’s good news. We need the jobs here, and Amazon, I think, pays a little bit more than minimum wage, so in that sense there will be fairly decent jobs,” said Cavanagh.
“Although we’d rather see good unionized jobs come to the province, which are much more beneficial.”
The company, which is famously anti-union, has come under fire in recent weeks for its labour practices, which include staff being overworked and not being able to take proper bathroom breaks.
Warehouses like Amazon’s have also become a hotspot for COVID-19 in harder-hit areas. More than 600 cases of the virus have been linked to an outbreak at an Amazon warehouse in Brampton, Ont.
While Cavanagh said Nova Scotia’s labour laws are in desperate need of an update, they would still mean employees would be protected from any infractions.
“We do need to see a modernization of labour standards in Nova Scotia, but for the most part, if Amazon comes here they need to abide by the law like any other employer,” he said.
“And if the people that work there decide they want to form a union, they have that fundamental charter right under the Canadian charter to do that.”
On the small business side of things, Paul MacKinnon, CEO of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, doesn’t think the new Amazon facility will put more pressure on smaller businesses in the area.
“It’s not like customers don’t already know about Amazon,” he said. “I don’t know that having an Amazon warehouse locally is going to make them any more or less likely to shop at Amazon than they were before.”
Local businesses ‘digital-ready’
While there may be concerns among small business owners that the local warehouse would mean faster delivery times, giving Amazon the competitive edge, MacKinnon said many businesses have the ability to get their products delivered quickly, if the orders are local.
COVID-19 has forced many of them to up their e-commerce game, he added.
“I would say the local business community has been taking great strides … to really get local businesses digital-ready,” said MacKinnon.
“More businesses are in a much better position to compete directly with Amazon when it comes to online shopping.”
Tim Rissesco, executive director of the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission, agreed, saying he doesn’t see much of a competition between the e-commerce giant and the small shops lining the city’s downtown streets.
Rissesco anticipates Amazon’s arrival would likely have a larger impact on some of the big-box stores in the area instead.
“To a large degree, Amazon operates in a different ecosystem than a lot of our retailers,” he said. “Many of the products that you would buy downtown, you can’t find on Amazon.”
Rissesco also said if there are labour concerns at the new facility, it’s likely those will come out publicly.
“We have fairly strong local media, and then also just a culture of sharing and communicating,” he said. “So I think it would be harder for one of these big fishes to get away with some of those sorts of abuses that we sometimes hear in the media from larger cities.”
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