UK: Amazon workers go on strike for first time

Amazon employees have started the UK’s first-ever strike to protest against what they contend is the online retailer’s terrible pay and conditions.

According to the GMB union, over 300 employees at Amazon’s warehouse in Coventry went on strike in protest at a “derisory” 5% pay increase to £10.50 per hour.

Workers complain of “severe” working conditions, saying they are continuously observed and reprimanded for “idle time” that only lasts a short while.

A system “that recognises exceptional performance” exists, according to Amazon.

If an employee isn’t hitting their performance targets, it “also encourages coaching to help them get better,” a spokesman added.

Two GMB-affiliated Amazon employees claimed that the robots in the facility were “treated better than us.”

Garfield Hilton and Darren Westwood explained how simply using the restroom might result in questions from supervisors.

The problem with abandoning work, according to Mr. Hilton, is that people want to know why. So they can check the system if the time is longer than a few minutes.

“They will interrogate you”

Mr. Hilton, who has diabetes, said it’s not always easy to locate restrooms inside the building, and it can occasionally take up to 15 minutes to find one and return.

“They will then inquire as to your activities.”

The men said that management keep tabs on employees’ performance.

Workers at the Coventry warehouse inspect merchandise before it is distributed to customers by Amazon fulfilment centres.

Employees can be asked to handle pallets rather than scan. Therefore, Mr. Westwood explained, “that time will accumulate when there are issues with a pallet or a box.

Technically, it might total 30 minutes. The management will appear and inform the workers that they have been sitting idle for 34 minutes today. What had you been doing?

“Performance is only counted when an employee is at their station and logged in to execute their job,” an Amazon spokeswoman added.

“The performance management tool is halted if an employee logs out, which they can do at any moment.”

However, Mr. Westwood and Mr. Hilton claimed that some coworkers were putting in 60-hour work weeks to keep up with living expenses.

On the brief bus ride to Amazon’s facility, Mr. Hilton claimed that he had observed employees dozing off. There are really a tonne of them in ghost mode throughout the place.

He stated that Amazon aims to “maximise every minute in the building.”

If the box containing the goods is not moving, you are not making money, is how you should view it. Amazon is in this. If a box has a malfunction, it will result in a loss. The box is making money if it leaves a building.

Amazon provided UK employees with a 5% wage increase in August; outside of London and the South East, this increase was approximately 50p.

The pace of price growth, or inflation, is at a 40-year high, which is straining household budgets.

Bogdan, a 29-year-old employee of Amazon, started there in 2015. He claimed that the wage offer “insulted” the personnel because they placed their health at risk by going to work at the height of the pandemic.

He claimed that one justification for the strike was the necessity for the general public to “understand what is going on” whenever they make a decision.

He said that although Amazon gave the impression that “everything is wonderful,” “it’s actually not true,” he continued.

Amazon is “proud” of its “competitive” pay rates, according to a representative. According to him, the beginning wage for employees is £10.50 an hour in the rest of the UK and £11.45 an hour in London and the South East.

He claimed that since 2018, the minimum hourly wage paid to Amazon employees had increased by 29%.

However, union members demand a wage of £15 per hour. The 50p offer, according to Mr. Westwood, was “a smack in the mouth.”

“These folks had laboured for two years despite the pandemic, which had caused Amazon’s stock to skyrocket. They had witnessed gains that had just become impossible, he claimed.

The strike action on Wednesday will have a “huge impact,” according to Amanda Gearing, a senior GMB union organiser, on the Coventry warehouse.

Only the beginning

Around 300 of the 1,500 employees at Amazon’s Coventry facility are expected to strike, according to the union.

From the picket line, Ms. Gearing declared, “Coventry might be the beginning [of the strikes], but it won’t be the end.” “We are aware that employees at other centres experience the same exact thing.”

People are forced to pick between heating their houses and, actually, eating, so it’s not acceptable from a company like Amazon, who made billions and billions of pounds in profit during the pandemic, she continued.

As Covid restrictions compelled customers to shop online, Amazon’s global sales and profits increased. Profits nearly quadrupled to $21.3 billion (£17.2 billion) in 2020 and then increased once more to $33.3 billion in 2019.

Since the reopening of economies, growth has been uneven, and after hiring thousands of new employees since 2019, Amazon is currently laying off 18,000 people globally.

People “could think we’re being greedy,” according to Mr. Westwood, if we demand £15 per hour. However, he cited Jeff Bezos, the creator, executive chairman, and space explorer of Amazon, who, according to Forbes magazine, is worth $120 billion.

Mr. Westwood declared, “We don’t want his boat or his missiles.” “All we want is to be able to survive. At the end of the week, I just want to be able to pay my bills. That is all we are requesting.

A “miniscule portion” of Amazon’s workers, the company claimed, participated in the strike. It claimed that “just a fraction of 1%” of its UK workers participated in the poll, including those who chose not to support industrial action.

However, Mr. Westwood deemed the figures to be “excellent.” Although Amazon does not recognise unions, the GMB reports that there are members of various sizes dispersed across the UK.

In the US, Amazon has fought against unionisation.

In a vote that resulted in the Amazon Labor Union’s certification, more than half of the 8,000 workers at a Staten Island, New York, warehouse cast their ballots in favour of union membership. The business has promised to challenge the certification, nevertheless.

According to Mr. Westwood, Coventry employs people from a plethora of various nations. They fail to recognise that they are in the UK, where they are free to form unions, hold protests, and withhold their labour.

“[Our employees] require a person. Although it will take a while, these people require someone who isn’t afraid. I’m not afraid, either.

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