Amazon warehouse workers in the UK and 40 other countries are to strike and stage protests timed to coincide with Black Friday sales, one of the company’s biggest shopping days of the year .
Employees in dozens of countries, from Japan and Australia to India, the United States and across Europe, are demanding better pay and conditions in a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay”.
In the UK, hundreds of GMB union members are staging strikes or protests at a number of Amazon warehouses, including a protest outside its distribution center in Coventry.
“We are here today to tell Amazon [that] if you want to keep your empire going, talk to GMB to improve workers’ pay and conditions,” said Amanda Gearing, Senior Organizer at GMB. “Amazon workers are overworked, underpaid and fed up.”
Profits at Amazon Services UK, the group’s warehouse and logistics operations, which would employ more than half of the company’s UK workforce of nearly 75,000, soared 60% to £204m, with revenue growing by just over a quarter to over £6bn last year.
Workers are demanding a pay rise of £10.50 to £15 an hour as the cost of living crisis hits household budgets.
However, joining the action in the UK could mean protesters miss out on the second part of a £500 bounty given by Amazon to tens of thousands of frontline workers.
Last month, Amazon UK said the award of the second part of the payment depended on staff not taking any “unauthorized absences” between November 22 and Christmas Eve.
The GMB argued that linking payment to staff attendance could be seen as an illegal anti-strike measure.
In Dublin, Extinction Rebellion staged a protest outside Amazon’s offices from 1 p.m.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “These groups represent a variety of interests, and while we are not perfect in any area, if you look objectively at what Amazon is doing on these important issues, you will see that we stand behind our role and our impact very seriously.
“We are inventing and investing significantly in all these areas, playing an important role in the fight against climate change with the climate commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, continuing to offer competitive salaries and great benefits, and inventing new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy across our operating network, to name a few.
In London, security guards and CCTV operators at Harrods are also going on strike on Black Friday, including staging a protest outside the luxury store in Knightsbridge, the first of 12 days of action over the festive period.
More than 50 staff are taking part in the protests, which are due to take place every weekend in December and include Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, on a 7% pay offer they see as a ‘cut’ with inflation over 11%.
Last month Harrods, which is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, reported annual profit of £51m, more than doubled its chief executive’s salary to £2.3m and revealed it had raised nearly £6million in government support as part of the Covid furlough. scheme.
“Harrods and its owners can fully afford to pay these workers a raise that reflects the soaring cost of living,” said Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union.
Meanwhile, industry body UKHospitality said a series of planned rail strikes ahead of Christmas would cost UK restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars £1.5billion, and called on the government to bring together all partners at the table to try to reach a solution.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, said the strikes would continue, after an initial meeting with Transport Secretary Mark Harper to try to resolve the dispute on Thursday.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the disruption and financial cost of the strikes will result in another lost Christmas on the scale of the impact of the Omicron variant of Covid last year.
“This disruption will devastate hospitality businesses during its busiest time of the year and will once again force the public to cancel and rearrange their plans,” she said. “The impact of the rail strikes already this year has been devastating and far-reaching, but that will pale in comparison to what we will see following the strikes to come in December.”