Amazon packages travel on a conveyor belt at a fulfillment center in England.
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Hundreds of Amazon Workers are on strike in Britain. The strike marks the first official industrial strike in the country for the US tech giant.
The 24-hour strike began on Wednesday a minute after midnight. The attackers are expected to camp outside the company’s site in Coventry, central England, throughout the day.
At 6am London time, workers were pictured camping by a bonfire and waving union flags outside the Coventry site near Birmingham Airport, known as BHX4.
Striking workers gather around a fire pit in a picket line at a fulfillment center Amazon.com Inc. In Coventry, UK, on Wednesday, January 25, 2023.
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One of the posters behind the workers bore the slogan “Fight for £15”, and encouraged workers to unionize with the GMB. Another message, which was stuck across the fence, read, “Wrong Amazon is burning.”
A striking worker hangs a sign reading “Wrong Amazon is burning” on a fence near a picket line at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Coventry, UK, on Wednesday, January 25, 2023.
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The GMB union, which represents the workers involved, said it expected 300 of the plant’s total 1,000 employees to turn up for the strike.
Workers plan to hold a large-scale demonstration from 4pm to 8pm London time.
Employees are unhappy with a wage increase of 50p (56 US cents) an hour, which is 5% and far below inflation. Amazon introduced a pay raise last summer. But warehouse workers say it is out of proportion to the rising cost of living. They want the company to pay a minimum of £15 an hour.
They also want better working conditions. Amazon workers have raised concerns about long working hours, high injury rates, and a relentless pace of work, as well as rigorous and technologically enhanced employee monitoring.
A striking worker holds a GMB Midlands union flag as workers queue to pass a picket line at an Amazon fulfillment center in Coventry, UK, on Wednesday, January 25, 2023.
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A spokesperson for the tech giant told CNBC in a statement that the employees involved represent “a tiny fraction of just 1% of our UK staff.” The spokesperson said salaries for Amazon warehouse workers in the UK have increased by 29% since 2018, and pointed to a one-time £500 payment to staff to help with the cost of living crisis.
Wednesday’s action against frim is the first legal strike to take place in Amazon UK UK employees who previously stopped working spontaneously in August and on Black Friday in November.
Darren Westwood, one of the Amazon warehouse workers who took part in the strikes, said it had “been a long way” to the same day, which he called “historic”.
“We’ve all seen the profits they make during the pandemic — and that’s what pissed people off the most,” Westwood told CNBC via a phone call. “We were expecting a better increase than they were charging.”
Inflation has risen due to increased energy costs and supply chain disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine. Consumer prices rose 10.5% year-on-year in December. In response, the Bank of England raised interest rates to tame rising costs.
Westwood said he and his partner are in a reasonable financial position at the moment. But he worried about other employees, one of whom said he worked 60 hours a week to meet mortgage payments.
“Somebody said one day we’re treated like robots — no, robots are treated better,” Westwood told CNBC.
Wednesday’s move in the UK comes as Amazon is laying off thousands around the world. The company began laying off 18,000 workers last week in an effort to undo some of the expansion it undertook during the Covid-19 era and prepare for a potential recession in 2023.
Earlier this month, Amazon launched Consult to close three of its UK locations, which employ a total of 1,200 people. According to the company, the move is not part of the 18,000 job cuts at Amazon.
Amazon has long been criticized for its labor shortcomings, with the company often accused of poor working conditions in its warehouses and deliveries and crushing attempts by employees to unionize. In April, employees at the company’s Staten Island, New York, warehouse became the first group in the United States to vote in favor of unionizing.
“We stand in solidarity with Amazon workers in Coventry who are fighting for higher wages and benefits,” Chris Smalls of the Amazon Workers Union, which founded the union, told CNBC. “It is time for Amazon, which claims to be the best company on earth, to come and negotiate in good faith with its unions.”
Amazon has previously said its employees have the right to join or not unionize, but it doesn’t believe unions are the best option for its workers.