‘Huge anger’ fuels Amazon workers Black Friday strike announcement

Exclusive interview with GMB organiser, on workers 'anger’ and 'frustration' following Amazon pay rise

Fresh strike action at the Amazon warehouse in Coventry has been announced for Black Friday after workers were left angered following an imposed pay rise.

Amazon workers have been taking strike action since February calling for a pay increase to £15 an hour to cope with the cost-of-living crisis and for union recognition to address working conditions.

However the delivery giant has refused to recognise the GMB union, and announced on Monday that they would be imposing a pay rise from £11 an hour to £11.80, and then again to £12.30 in April for warehouse workers.

GMB organiser Stuart Richards told LFF that the workers response was of, “absolutely huge anger” and “frustration” at feeling their demands were being ignored, as workers called for the latest strike dates to be announced in reaction to the pay rise.

“Amazon is playing this in the press as another great pay award,” said Richards.

“The reality is for these workers, that their pay has fallen so much closer to the minimum wage over that period of time that they are just increasingly frustrated that they have a company that’s refusing to listen to them.”

“So this is their response,” added Richards in reference to the latest strike dates set to hit Amazon in the run up to and on one of the most popular shopping days.

“Releasing those dates early was their response to Amazon saying, “No, this isn’t acceptable, you’re not listening to us, we’re going to keep on.””

Richards said he hadn’t seen a single comment from workers suggesting the latest pay rise was acceptable, which was ‘wild’ given the number of workers involved and struggling with a cost-of-living crisis.

“All I’ve seen is anger from people saying ‘no, we’ve been doing this, we’ve been fighting this for coming up to a year now, and you’re just refusing to listen to us’. So from their perspective, it really does look like they are on board and saying it’s £15 we want.”

According to Amazon UK, their minimum starting salary has risen by 20% in two years and 50% since 2018.

John Boumphrey, Amazon UK Country Manager said: “Amazon have some of the most talented colleagues around, and we’re proud to offer them competitive wages and benefits, as well as fantastic opportunities for career development, all in a safe and modern work environment.”

But Richards said Amazon are continued to refuse to communicate with GMB over pay and conditions, whilsts the union now have over 1,000 members signed up at the Coventry site.

GMB have approached the company for the second time asking for voluntary union recognition in Coventry however have apparently received the same response of refusal.

“Amazon are just unwilling to ask their workers or let their workers go through a process where they can secure (union recognition), instead spend a huge amount of money to subvert the process.

“This is effectively a statement from our members at Coventry saying we’re not going to live with this.”

Another Amazon warehouse site in Rugeley had also voted to take industrial action in July, however since then it has been announced that the site is closing.

But Stuart Richards said the overriding feeling of anger over pay and conditions was driving many workers to join a union.

“We’ve got to give them the confidence of going now to their colleagues and saying actually if we want to do this, we have to do this together and build some collective strength on that.

“That’s a real big journey for these workers. We’ve done it in Coventry, we’re confident we can do it in other places, but it is going to take a long time.”

It was also revealed that union representatives will be meeting with colleagues from different unions across the globe in Manchester at the end of this month to coordinate action going forward.

More than 1,000 workers are set to walk out on 7, 8, 9 November and the 24th, Black Friday, bringing the total days lost to industrial action up to nearly 30.  

GMB organiser Rachel Fagan warned the upcoming strikes will ‘ripple throughout the company’s UK logistics’.

Fagan said: “As Black Friday looms, Amazon must urgently reconsider their priorities or risk strike action causing widespread disruption to customers and the public.”

(Image credit: GMB / Andy Prendergast Twitter)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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