Amazon faces Black Friday protests and strikes in 40 countries

Thousands of Amazon warehouse workers in about 40 countries plan to take part in protests and walkouts to coincide with Black Friday sales, one of the busiest days of the year for online shopping.

Workers in the US, UK, India, Japan, Australia, South Africa and across Europe are demanding better wages and working conditions as the cost of living crisis deepens, in a campaign called ‘Make Amazon Pay’. The campaign is coordinated by an international coalition of unions with the support of environmental and civic groups.

“It’s time for the tech giant to immediately stop its terrible, dangerous practices, respect the law and deal with workers who want to improve their jobs,” said Christy Hoffman, general secretary of the UNI Global Union, one of the organizers of the campaign.

Labor tensions have been a long-standing issue for the e-commerce giant, which has faced complaints of unfair labor practices at some facilities as well as employee and union activism. In what was considered a watershed moment, workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted to join a new union earlier this year.

“While we are not perfect in any area, if you look objectively at what Amazon is doing on these important issues, you will see that we take our role and our impact very seriously,” said Amazon spokesman David Nieberg.

He mentioned the company’s goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and that it “continues to offer competitive wages and great benefits, and invent new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy.”

Unions in France and Germany – CGT and Ver.di – are spearheading the latest collective action with coordinated strikes at 18 major warehouses to cut off supplies to key European markets.

Monika di Silvestre, head of Amazon’s Ver.di committee in Germany, said workers were particularly concerned about how their productivity was closely monitored by computers, with algorithms setting targets for, for example, the number of packages they needed to process per hour.

“Employees are under a lot of pressure with these algorithms,” she said. “It does not distinguish between workers if they are old or have limited mobility. Workers stay up at night thinking only about their productivity statistics.”

She called on European politicians to strengthen labor rights across the bloc. “We don’t have the right to strike across Europe – at the European level,” she said.

In the UK, workers affiliated with the GMB union planned protests outside several warehouses, including Coventry.

“Amazon workers in Coventry are overworked, underpaid and fed up,” said Amanda Gearing, lead organizer for the GMB, adding that “hundreds” of them would be coming together to demand a pay rise from £10.50 an hour to £15.

Any worker who leaves during a shift could lose the other half of the £500 bonus Amazon announced last month for warehouse workers in the UK. The final payment is conditional on employees having “no unauthorized absences” between November 22 and December 24. The GMB said linking pay to attendance could be construed as illegal incitement to strike.

In the US, protests and rallies will be held in more than 10 cities and outside the 5th Avenue apartment building in New York where Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has an apartment. Multiple rallies are also planned in India, while in Japan members of a recently formed union will protest outside the company’s national headquarters in Tokyo. In Bangladesh, garment workers in Amazon’s supply chain will march in Dhaka and Chittagong.

Some demonstrations will focus on Amazon’s environmental and social footprint, for example in Ireland people will gather outside the company’s Dublin offices to oppose two new planned data centers in the city. In South Africa, protesters gather near Amazon’s new offices in Cape Town, which are being built on land considered sacred by indigenous people.

Some unions have expressed concern about the current economic climate amid warnings from Amazon that its peak Christmas season may not be as busy as usual. The company’s decision to lay off 10,000 workers will also make wage negotiations more difficult.

Laurent Cretin, a delegate of the CFE-CGC union in France, said the company would have 880 employees at its Chalon-sur-Saône warehouse this Christmas season, down from 1,000 before COVID, which he attributed to tightening consumer spending and remittances. activities to robotic warehouses.

“The prognosis is not great, we’re not sure we’ll do as well as we did last year when there was a post-covid surge,” he said.

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