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Amazon workers in Britain are taking strike action for the first time, with a third of staff walking out at a warehouse in Coventry in a dispute over pay.
About 300 members of the GMB union, out of the 1,000 who work in the company’s warehouse BHX4, were due to stop work from midnight today in a 24-hour stoppage.
They are asking to be paid as much as their colleagues in the United States, who receive $18 an hour, or £14.65, rather than the 50p-an-hour pay rise that Amazon proposed in an August pay review, which would take the lowest-paid employee to £10.50 an hour. Workers were also offered a one-off £500 payment for October and November.
The GMB said this rate of pay was lower than those offered by Asda, Disney and Primark, which also operate warehouses in the area.
A spokesman for Amazon said that operations this week would continue as usual and that customers would not see an impact. “We appreciate the great work our teams do throughout the year and we’re proud to offer competitive pay, which starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location,” he said.
“This represents a 29 per cent increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to Amazon employees since 2018. Employees are also offered comprehensive benefits that are worth thousands more — including private medical insurance, life assurance, subsidised meals and an employee discount, to name a few.”
The union said today’s action could be a catalyst for others and suggested that if strikes became more widespread customers may note an impact on Amazon deliveries.
The GMB has long alleged that conditions are poor for warehouse workers and that ambulance call-outs to Amazon’s sites are too high. The company rejects such claims, saying it would always take someone who was ill to hospital and that while people do occasionally get injured, it does not happen frequently.
Stuart Richards, GMB senior organiser, said: “Today, Amazon workers in Coventry will make history. They’ve defied the odds to become the first ever Amazon workers in the UK to go on strike. They’re taking on one of the world’s biggest companies to fight for a decent standard of living.”
Amazon employs about 75,000 people in Britain, with more than 50,000 working in logistics across 30 fulfilment centres and 70 delivery stations, which are smaller operations based near people’s homes.