Japanese Union Leaders Claim Amazon is Weaponizing “Performance Improvement Plans”

Union leaders for Amazon’s workforce in Japan claim that Amazon is using its Performance Improvement Plans, or PIPs, to target workers and force them out with hostile practices.

The Amazon Japan Union, part of the Tokyo Managers Union (MU), have long been critical of the PIPs employed by Amazon. The recent termination of Amazon employee Masafumi Ito has rekindled the discussion, with Ito filing a wrongful termination suit after refusing to resign.

Ito, a six year Amazon salesman, was placed on a PIP in 2019. This rotation lasted for 2 years and came with multiple disciplinary actions according to Ito, who was then asked to resign in February 2021. When he refused, Amazon terminated his employment.

Ito told reporters at Rest of World that employees on PIPs are often set unachievable goals and then terminated on the basis of not completing them. He would also call the PIP rotation at Amazon “a death sentence”.

According to the article, Amazon supervisors are instructed to identify the lowest 10% of workers each year and raise their performance quotas, using PIPs and other management tools. The expectation from Amazon is that if employees fail to meet the set expectations, they will voluntarily leave.

Similar systems have been reported in the U.S., though Amazon told Insider they were actively working to change those practices in 2016.

Amazon has recently been the subject of much criticism from unions and worker-relations groups. Recently the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) filed an objection after a failed unionization effort at a Bessemer warehouse, claiming that Amazon engaged in anti-competitive practices. The hearing to hear objections in this case is set for May 7.

 Amazon has faced antitrust investigations in Japan, where they paid $19 million in damages to product vendors that it had charged with unfair fees.

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