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Employment

Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers stage wildcat strikes over ‘pathetic’ pay rise

At least 1,300 Amazon workers are thought to have taken part in the protests in four warehouses.

Workers at Amazon warehouses across the UK have downed tools over a “pathetic” pay rise.

The ‘wildcat’ or unofficial strikes were started by workers at the Tilbury warehouse on Wednesday night, and have now spread across the UK to Amazon distribution warehouses in Bristol, Staffordshire and Coventry. 

Some 300 staff at the warehouse in Avonmouth, near Bristol, stopped work for a second time on Friday in response to the 3 per cent pay rise, equating to an extra 35p an hour. 

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Around 100 workers at the Lyon’s Park centre in Coventry demonstrated in the warehouse’s canteen, union GMB has said. Staff at the company’s Staffordshire warehouse also walked out to protest the pay offer, which has been reported to be an extra 50p an hour.  

Amazon recently emailed workers saying it would be raising wages “to a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45p/h, depending on location,” but with inflation hitting 9.4 per cent in June, many workers said this wasn’t enough to cope with rising cost of living. 

Stuart Richard, a spokesperson for GMB, which has members who work at Amazon, said the firm imposed the rise on staff and “the workers are saying it isn’t enough”.

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Amazon said its pay was “competitive” and staff were also offered a benefits package worth thousands annually.

“I believe there were four sites yesterday and allegedly there was a concern from within Amazon that this might spread worldwide,” GMB organiser Steve Garelick told the Mail Online. 

“The walk-outs have snowballed because people have had enough… It is about the behaviour towards staff.”

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An employee at the Tilbury warehouse, where the sit-in began, told The Big Issue: “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.”

Amazon recently raised the cost of its Amazon Prime monthly subscription by £1, and its yearly annual membership from £79 to £95.

The wild cat strikes come as unions across the UK ballot for strike action, with rail workers, barristers and bin workers all taking part in industrial action, and nurses and postal workers casting their votes imminently.

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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