Amazon opened a robotics sortable fulfilment centre in Hamilton on Tuesday and announced plans to open three more Ontario facilities by the end of 2023.
The company says it will have a robotics sortable fulfilment centre in Ottawa, a sorting centre in Whitby, and a fulfilment centre in Southwold, which is near London, Ont.
All four centres are set to create 4,500 "safe" jobs, according to Amazon, with at least 1,500 at the Hamilton plant.
"The building we are in today is the most technologically advanced fulfilment centre of Amazon in Canada " said Vibhore Arora, Amazon Canada's regional director of customer fulfilment.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Ontario job minister Vic Fedeli, Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Donna Skelly, Conservative MPP for Flamborough-Glanbrook, praised the new centre.
Skelly said as many as 4,000 people may work at the warehouse during peak times and said the Amazon jobs may offer people extra flexibility.
Labour council 'cautiously optimistic'
When the new centre was first announced in 2020, there were some concerns from Anthony Marco, president of the Hamilton and District Labour Council.
Now, Marco said he still feels cautiously optimistic.
"It's great that there are jobs coming into the city ... but when we talk about jobs in the labour movement, we also talk about decent work," he said on Tuesday.
"We want jobs that pay at least a living wage, hopefully include benefits, hopefully include pensions and those are some of the things we look for."
Marco points to labour movements at Amazon warehouses in the U.S.
The Staten Island warehouse in New York City voted to unionize despite reports that managers worked to prevent staff from unionizing.
Amazon workers in Alberta are working to unionize, according to Stacy Tulp, organizer for Teamster Local 362. He said they're trying to meet the requirements to hold a vote on whether to form a union.
"It's important to give people a voice in the work place. Their working conditions are, I can say, deplorable. Their wages are below living rates," Tulp said.
It's unclear if workers are trying to form unions at other Amazon warehouses in Canada.
In its release about the expansion, the company says it will provide full-time operations employees with access to educational opportunities through "upskilling" programs, Amazon will pay up to 95 per cent tuition for courses related to in-demand fields.
Spokesperson Dave Bauer told CBC News in an email that the vast majority of the Hamilton warehouse workers will be full-time. He said the starting wage is $18.70 an hour. Workers also have medical, vision and dental coverage and have other benefits like a group RRSP plan, stock awards and performance bonuses.
Arora said in an interview Tuesday that there will also be jobs related to human resources, warehouse health and safety, and information technology.
Marco said at $18.70 per hour, workers will struggle to afford rent in Hamilton. He also said he wants more details about the benefits plan.
"The compensation numbers are at a very bare bones for a full-time position in a city as expensive as Hamilton. As is the case with many warehouse-oriented jobs. However, the quality of job rests not only in the compensation package, but also in the working conditions," he said.
"One cannot grow this job into a career if they burn out in a year or less."