Amazon warehouse workers in the UK and 40 other countries are to strike and stage protests timed to coincide with Black Friday sales, one of the company’s biggest shopping days of the year.
Workers in dozens of countries, from Japan and Australia to India, the US and across Europe, are demanding better wages and conditions in a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay”.
In the UK, hundreds of members of the GMB union are staging strikes or protests at a number of Amazon warehouses, including a protest outside its fulfillment center in Coventry.
“We’re here today to tell Amazon [that] if you want to keep your empire going, talk to the GMB to improve workers’ pay and conditions,” said Amanda Gearing, GMB chief organiser. “Amazon employees are overworked, underpaid, and fed up.”
Profits at Amazon Services UK, the group’s warehousing and logistics operations, which are estimated to employ more than half of the company’s UK workforce of nearly 75,000 people, rose 60% to £204m, with sales up by just over a quarter. more than £6bn last year.
Workers are demanding a pay rise from £10.50 to £15 an hour as the cost of living crisis hits household budgets.
But taking part in the UK action could mean protesters lose the second part of the £500 bonus Amazon has agreed for tens of thousands of frontline workers.
Last month, Amazon UK said the allocation of the second part of the payment was dependent on staff not having “unauthorised absences” between November 22 and Christmas Day.
The GMB argued that linking the payment to staff attendance could be seen as an illegal strike action.
In Dublin, Extinction Rebellion organized a protest outside Amazon’s offices from 1pm.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “These groups represent different interests, and while we’re not perfect in any area, if you look objectively at what Amazon is doing on these important issues, you’ll see that it takes its role and our impact very seriously.”
“We are innovating and investing significantly in all of these areas, playing a significant role in addressing climate change with a commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, continuing to offer competitive wages and great benefits, and inventing new ways to retain our employees. safe and sound across our operational network, to name just a few.”
In London, security guards and CCTV operators at Harrods department store are also on strike on Black Friday, including staging a protest outside the luxury Knightsbridge store, the first of 12 days of action over the festive period.
More than 50 staff are taking part in the protests, which are due to take place every weekend in December and include Christmas Day and Boxing Day, over a 7% pay offer they see as a “cut” with inflation running at more than 11%.
Last month, Harrods, which is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, reported annual profits of £51m, more than doubled its chief executive’s pay to £2.3m and revealed it had collected almost £6m in government aid as part of the Covid holiday. system.
“Harrods and its owners can absolutely afford to pay these workers a rise that reflects the skyrocketing cost of living,” said Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite trade union.
Meanwhile, industry body UKHospitality said a series of planned rail strikes in the run-up to Christmas will cost Britain’s restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars £1.5 billion and called on the government to bring all partners to the table to try to find a solution.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, said the strikes would continue after a first meeting with Transport Minister Mark Harper on Thursday to try to resolve the dispute.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the disruption and financial cost of the strikes would cause another lost Christmas on the scale of the impact of the Omicron variant of Covid last year.
“This disruption will devastate the hospitality business during its busiest time of year and once again force the public to cancel and rearrange plans,” she said. “The impact of rail strikes this year has already been devastating and far-reaching, but it will pale in comparison to what we will see as a result of the upcoming strikes in December.”