Amazon workers at a sprawling depot in Coventry are set to go on a historic strike on Wednesday. This is the first time the delivery giant’s UK operations have been hit with industrial action.
The immediate cause of the controversy was the 50 pence hourly wage increase offered to warehouse staff in the summer. This was considered insulting by many.
But staff also complain about the demanding 24-hour shifts and constant close supervision by management.
A worker recently Guardian It’s impossible to make ends meet without signing up for a 60-hour work week. “I don’t want a Jeff Bezos boat,” he said. “I definitely don’t want his rocket. But I just want to live.”
That’s what we’ve heard in campaigns by Amazon workers around the world, including in the United States, where they’ve recently had notable success in winning union recognition.
Derrick Palmer, vice president of the US Amazon Workers’ Union, recently won an endorsement battle at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Staten Island, New York, and endorsed this week’s action in Coventry.
Listening to workers’ experiences in a warehouse on a site formerly used by automaker Jaguar Land Rover, local Labor MP Taio Owatemi is also supportive.
The company claims it is relaxed about the suspension, arguing that the strikers are a small fraction of Coventry’s employees and that their actions will have little to no impact on the company’s operations. It also points out that all staff will be paid £500 for living expenses during the busy Christmas period.
Amazon’s numbers are correct. The GMB union has registered about 300 members at the Coventry site, with total staff he estimates at over 1,400.
But unions nonetheless followed Wednesday’s action in a decade-long battle to organize inside Amazon warehouses across the UK in the face of the company’s well-documented hostility to unions. I see it as a historic step.
To say the least, the GMB’s demand for £15 an hour looks punchy. Members are now receiving £10.50 an hour, an increase of 45%. And unlike thousands of nurses, doctors, teachers and train drivers, a labor dispute by these 300 warehouse workers is unlikely to affect anyone’s daily life.
The economic backdrop has also darkened since the union first started organizing last summer. Retail sales in December he fell 1%.
Amazon recently announced plans to close three warehouses and seven smaller delivery sites in the UK, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.
But members of the GMB hope they can draw public attention to the situation facing those working behind the brown cardboard parcels that arrive daily at doors across the UK. is.
West Midlands GMB organizer Stuart Richards said unions have been hearing frustrated workers at other Amazon facilities since the results of the Coventry strike vote were announced in December. I want their voices to be heard.
He stressed the lengths the company appeared to have gone to to frustrate its efforts to organize its staff, saying that the Coventry depot was a “little fortress” compared to other facilities with CCTV and security guards. According to the company, these are standard security measures and all visitors to Amazon sites must be escorted.
“I have been involved in unions for about 25 years and have never met an employer who refuses any kind of involvement at all,” he says. “Ultimately, the real purpose is to drag, kick and yell at Amazon bosses to get them one step closer to talking to us.