Amazon workers stage first-ever strike in the UK over pay, working conditions


Amazon packages move on a conveyer belt at a fulfillment center in England.

Nathan Stirk | Getty Images

Amazon workers are going on strike in Britain, in a move that marks the first formal industrial action in the country for the U.S. tech giant.

The 24-hour strike action began Wednesday a minute after midnight. Strikers are expected to picket outside the company’s site in Coventry in central England throughout the day. The GMB Union, which represents the workers involved, said it expects hundreds of employees to turn up to the walkout.

Staff are unhappy with a pay increase of 50 pence (56 U.S. cents) per hour, equivalent to 5% and well below inflation. Amazon introduced the pay hike last summer. But warehouse workers say it fails to match the rising cost of living. They want the company to pay a minimum £15 an hour.

They also want better working conditions. Amazon workers have complained of long working hours, as well as aggressive, tech-enhanced monitoring of employees.

A spokesperson for the tech giant told CNBC in a statement that the staff involved represent “only a fraction of 1% of our UK employees.” The spokesperson said that pay for Amazon’s U.K. warehouse workers has increased 29% since 2018, and pointed to a £500 one-time payment made out to staff to help with the cost-of-living crisis.

Wednesday’s action against the frim is the first legally mandated strike to take place in the U.K. Amazon’s U.K. staff previously stopped working spontaneously in August and on Black Friday in November.

‘Historic’

Darren Westwood, one of Amazon’s workers taking part in the strikes, said it “has been a long road” to the day itself, which he described as “historic.”

“We all saw the profits they’re making during the pandemic — that’s what angered people more,” Westwood told CNBC via phone call. “We were expecting a better increase than what they were imposing.”

Inflation has soared due to increased energy costs and supply chain disruptions stemming from the war in Ukraine. Consumer prices rose 10.5% year-over-year in December; in response, the Bank of England has hiked interest rates to tame rising costs.

Westwood said that he and his partner are in a reasonable financial position for now. But he worries for other employees, one of whom he said was working 60 hours a week to meet mortgage payments.



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