Dissatisfaction begins spilled through Amazon’s largest UK warehouse just as details of the hourly wage increase appeared on screens around the facility on Wednesday. Rumors at the Tilbury distribution center in south-east England predicted an increase of £1 ($1.20) per hour, for many workers a 9% increase. Instead, the displays show an increase of just 35 pence (or 43 cents), about 3%.
“People were shocked,” said an employee at the Tilbury warehouse, who was working with non-profit organization Foxglove Legal, an organization that advocates for the rights of technology workers. Amazon workers see the raise as an insult at a time of widespread cost-of-living increases, the worker said. “It makes absolutely no sense.”
Frustration over the pay increase prompted a crowd of employees to stop working and protest in the warehouse cafeteria around 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The union GMB, which represents some Amazon employees in the UK, estimated between 700 and 1,000 people took part and said that the protests in Tilbury continued on Thursday, as workers at warehouses in Coventry and Bristol also quit.
Amazon workers are not the first in Britain’s tech industry to protest a pay increase that employees say is outdated given the cost of energy bills and rising inflation. Thousands of workers at telecom company BT went on strike at the end of July, after announcing a 3 to 8 percent pay increase. Postal and railroad workers across the country also voted in favor of industrial action over wages.
Steve Garelick, GMB’s regional organizer, said there had never been a strike before at many Amazon warehouses in the UK. “This is the first time there has been a cohesive action from the workers,” he said. Garelick said the move reflects Amazon’s inadequate response to workers’ concerns about rising costs of living, driven by inflation and a rise in interest rates from the Bank of China. england.
When asked about the steps, Amazon spokesman David Nieberg said the company offers competitive pay and benefits. “Employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package that includes private health insurance, life insurance, income protection, subsidized meals and employee discounts, which add up to value,” he said. thousands annually, as well as corporate pension plans”. GMB says employee discounts are capped at £100 per year.
One video posted on Twitter showed workers striking when Amazon representatives tried to convince them to return to work or leave the facility, saying it was too hot. “It’s probably not very safe in this canteen,” the manager says in the video, before their voices are drowned out by the crowd. “We’re used to it,” several voices shouted back.
Amazon has long tried to discourage its workers from joining unions, but a growing number of employees in its warehouses have done so since the pandemic hit. In April, Amazon workers in New York City’s Staten Island voted to establish the first union at the company United States. In May, strikes took place at seven distribution centers across Germany, Amazon’s largest market in Europe.
“After Covid, after risking our lives in such uncertain times, it was like being spit in the face, 35 minutes,” said another Amazon employee who joined the walk at the Tilbury facility. know. “We could see the company turn a profit.” Amazon reported a quarterly profit of $14.3 billion in February but recorded a loss in business results in the last two quarters.
However, cost-of-living concerns have led other workers to conclude that they cannot afford to take part in the walkout. “I need money,” said another worker at the Tilbury warehouse, who remained at their station on Thursday instead of joining the coffee shop protest, and recently started working overtime to increase revenue. import. “Inflation has hit us very hard.”
Employees at Tilbury were told that to attend the walkout they would have to “hang up” and would not be paid, the employee said, and managers kept a record of who did and did not stay. back to their workstation.