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Black Friday hit by strikes as over 1000 Amazon workers walk out in pay dispute

Workers say they tired of only ‘just about making ends meet’

Maira Butt
Friday 24 November 2023 12:14 GMT
Palmdale Amazon workers strike

Black Friday has been hit by strike action as more than 1000 Amazon workers walk out in what unions say will be the biggest disruption in the company’s 30-year history.

Around 1,150 workers at Amazon’s Coventry distribution warehouse joined the picket line in a row over pay and working conditions.

Unions say workers are tired of only “just about making ends meet” and “walking miles every day” in their roles.

The Coventry centre is one of the busiest in Amazon’s UK operations, one of only two similar sites, with concerns mounting about the strike’s impact on customers on what is typically one of the busiest days of the year.

Workers from the US, Germany and Italy were also expected to join the action which is part of what unions call a “global movement” for better pay and working conditions. Strikes are also expected to take part across the US and Europe.

Workers say they want Amazon bosses to respond to calls for better pay and working conditions (GMB)

It comes as millions of customers are expected to splash out on Black Friday sales on 24 November.

But workers say the firm’s treatment of staff is not acceptable.

One worker told The Independent that the strikes had brought workers together but the situation for many was dire.

“Some of my colleagues are doing multiple jobs barely seeing their partners or kids,” she said. “Amazon is one of the richest companies in the world, its founder is busy building rockets yet the people who made him that fortune are on the breadline, going to food banks, pawning items to make ends meet.”

She said that working at the company was both “physically and mentally draining” as heavy lifting for ten hours a night took its toll and injuries occured.

When it comes to mental health, she said the effect was similar: “You constantly have managers coming up to you telling you that your rate is low, or you’re put on a line of shame with all the other under-performers, it does take a toll on people's mental health.

“Having to work many more hours means not having the time or chance to do things that are good for them.”

The GMB union, which represents workers, told The Independent staff were disappointed that Amazon bosses had refused to discuss pay and working conditions despite months of action.

“It’s a really simple ask,” a spokesperson told The Independent. “We want the company to sit down and start talking to us. It’s a reasonable request and Amazon bosses have refused to talk.

“It’s an appalling indictment on the company. It’s shameful that Amazon haven’t done this.”

GMB said the strike would have a “significant financial impact” on the business over a busy period.

Amanda Gearing, GMB organiser, said: “The truth is that this Black Friday will see the largest day of industrial disruption in Amazon’s 30-year history.

Amazon say the strike will not affect customers (PA)

“Coventry is the beating heart of Amazon’s distribution network; strike action on Black Friday will ripple throughout the company’s UK logistics.”

But Amazon insisted the action would not affect customers. The company told The Independent: “There will be no disruption to customers. Our Coventry site does not directly serve customer orders.”

In response to workers’ concerns, it said it regularly reviewed pay to ensure it offered competitive wages and benefits.

It said: “By April 2024, our minimum starting pay will have increased to £12.30 and £13 per hour depending on location, that’s a 20 per cent increase over two years and 50 per cent since 2018.

“We also work hard to provide great benefits, a positive work environment and excellent career opportunities.

“These are just some of the reasons people want to come and work at Amazon, whether it’s their first job, a seasonal role or an opportunity for them to advance their career.”

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