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Amazon warehouse workers down tools to protest 35p pay rise

Union GMB has described the pay offer from Amazon to its workers as "pathetic".

Workers at Amazon in Tilbury have downed tools. Image: Supplied

Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers downed tools in protest over a pay rise offer of 35p an hour from the company.

Videos on social media appear to show a sit-in taking place in the company’s warehouse canteen in Tilbury, Essex, where workers are said to have gathered together to protest the new pay offer from the company.

Protests have since spread to the Amazon warehouse in Rugeley, Staffordshire, while there are reports of workers at the Dartford warehouse organising.

In one video uploaded on Wednesday evening, a manager asks employees to return to their work stations, saying: “Continuing like this all night is not going to change anything.”

The crowd responds by shouting and jeering with one person heard saying: “You’re losing money.”

Union GMB says the employees are seeking a £2 an hour pay rise in line with the demands of the job and to cope with the rising cost of living. 

A union representative has estimated around 800 workers over two shifts “downed tools in the depot” on Wednesday evening. The Big Issue has been told that the majority returned to their posts in the afternoon with around 150 continuing the protest.

An employee at the Amazon Tilbury warehouse told the Big Issue that management “told them if they don’t go back to work, they’re not going to be paid”.

But he believes that the majority of night shift workers, who originally started the protest, will continue the sit-in later today, “because they don’t care about losing pay. They’re fed up with the way we’re being treated there.”

Describing working conditions, the employee said: “I’ve been to the gym and I’ve not been this tired, you’re physically drained, you can’t do nothing else afterwards, it’s disgusting.”

They also believe the sit has already inspired workers at other Amazon warehouses in the UK to stage similar protests.

“Amazon is one of the most profitable companies on the planet. With household costs spiralling, the least they can do is offer decent pay,” said Steve Garelick, GMB regional organiser.

“Amazon continues to reject working with trade unions to deliver better working conditions and fair pay. Their repeated use of short-term contracts is designed to undermine worker’s rights.

“The image the company likes to project, and the reality for their workers could not be more different. They need to drastically improve pay and working conditions.”

Amazon has refused to recognise GMB, which prevents workers from collective bargaining, but GMB says its membership among Amazon workers is growing.

An Amazon spokesperson said: “Starting pay for Amazon employees will be increasing to a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45p/h, depending on location. This is for all full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary roles in the UK.

“In addition to this competitive pay, employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package that includes private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, subsidised meals and an employee discount among others, which combined are worth thousands annually, as well as a company pension plan.”

Minimum wage in the UK for people aged 23 and over is £9.50 an hour, while the independently calculated Real Living Wage  is £9.90 across the UK and £11.05 in London.

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