Amazon warehouse workers in the UK and 40 other countries are set to go on strike and stage protests to coincide with Black Friday sales, one of the company’s biggest shopping days of the year.
Workers in dozens of countries, from Japan and Australia to India, the US and across Europe, are demanding better wages and working 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 the logistics center in Coventry.
“We’re here today to tell Amazon [that] If you want to keep your empire running, talk to GMB to improve workers’ pay and conditions,” said Amanda Gearing, a senior organizer at GMB. “Amazon workers are overworked, underpaid and fed up.”
Profits at Amazon Services UK, the group’s warehousing and logistics operation which is expected to employ more than half of the company’s UK workforce of nearly 75,000 people, are up 60% to £204m with revenue up by just over a quarter have risen to more than £6bn over the past year.
Workers are demanding a pay rise from £10.50 to £15 an hour as the cost of living crisis hits household budgets.
But taking part in the UK action could mean protesters missing out on the second part of a £500 bonus Amazon has agreed for tens of thousands of frontline workers.
Last month, Amazon UK said the second part of the payment was conditional on employees not taking “unauthorized absences” between November 22 and Christmas Eve.
The GMB argued that linking payment to staff attendance could be seen as an illegal step to suppress strikes.
In Dublin, Extinction Rebellion organized a protest outside Amazon’s offices from 1 p.m.
A spokesman for Amazon said: “These groups represent a variety of interests and while we’re not perfect in any area, if you look objectively at what Amazon is doing on these important matters, you’ll see that we play our part and play our part Impact very serious.”
“We’re innovating and investing significantly in all of these areas, playing a significant role in tackling climate change with a climate commitment to be carbon-free by 2040, continuing to offer competitive wages and great benefits, and inventing new ways to keep our people safe and healthy in our operational network, just to name a few.”
In London, security forces and CCTV operators at Harrods are also on Black Friday strike, including a protest outside the Knightsbridge luxury store, the first of 12 days of action during the festive period.
More than 50 staff are taking part in the protests, set to take place every weekend in December, including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, over a 7% salary offer they see as a “cut” if inflation tops 11%.
Last month, Harrods, owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, announced it was projecting annual profits of 51 million.
“Harrods and its owners can absolutely afford to give these workers a raise that reflects the rising cost of living,” said Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite.
Meanwhile, industry body UKHospitality said a series of planned rail strikes in the run-up to Christmas would cost UK restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars £1.5billion and urged the Government to bring all partners together to try and deal with them reach a solution.
Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, said the strikes were continuing after an initial meeting with Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Thursday to try to resolve the dispute.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, said the disruption and financial cost of the strikes would cause another lost Christmas on the scale of the impact of the Omicron variant of Covid last year.
“This disruption will devastate the hospitality industry during the busiest time of the year, again forcing the public to cancel and rearrange plans,” she said. “The impact of the rail strikes already this year has been devastating and far-reaching, but this will pale in comparison to what we will see as a result of the upcoming strikes in December.”