Image Source: People’s Dispatch
Amazon workers in the UK will walk off the job for the first time on Wednesday to protest pay.
Members of the GMB union are walking out of Amazon’s Coventry warehouse over what they call a “derisory” 50p an-hour pay raise.
Workers told the BBC that their jobs are “very hard.” They said that they are always being watched and scolded if they are “idle” for even a few minutes.
Amazon said it has a system that rewards people for doing good work.
A spokesman said that the company also encourages coaching to help employees get better if they need to meet their performance goals.
But two Amazon workers who are also members of the GMB said that the robots in the warehouse “are treated better than us.”
Darren Westwood and Garfield Hilton told the BBC that managers could ask questions about anything, even going to the bathroom.
Mr. Hilton, who has diabetes, said it’s not always easy to find a bathroom nearby, and it can sometimes take up to 15 minutes to find one and go back.
They said that managers keep track of how well workers do their jobs and that any time not spent scanning things is added up.
Workers in the Coventry warehouse check the stock before sending it to Amazon fulfillment centers so it can be sent to customers.
A spokesman for Amazon said: “Only when an employee is at their station and logged in to do their job is their performance measured.
But Mr. Westwood and Mr. Hilton said their coworkers must work long hours to keep up with the cost of living. Some of them work 60 hours a week.
Mr. Hilton said that he saw people fall asleep on the bus to Amazon’s warehouse. “There are so many in the building that they’re almost like ghosts.”
He said that Amazon’s goal is to “maximize every minute in that building.”
Amazon workers demand better pay
A representative for Amazon said, “We appreciate the great work our teams do all year, and we’re proud to offer competitive pay that starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location.”
He said that Amazon’s workers’ minimum hourly wage has increased by 29% since 2018.
On the other hand, people in unions want to be paid £15 an hour. Mr. Westwood said the 50p offer was “a slap in the mouth.”
Covid restrictions forced people to shop online, so Amazon’s sales and profits went through the roof. Between 2019 and 2020, profits almost doubled to $21.3 billion (£17.2 billion), and they went up again the following year to $33.3 billion.
Since economies started growing again, growth has been uneven, and Amazon is now letting go of 18,000 workers after hiring thousands since 2019.
Mr. Westwood said that people might think we’re being greedy if we ask for £15 an hour. But he pointed to Jeff Bezos, who started Amazon, is its executive chairman, and has gone into space. According to Forbes, Bezos has a $120bn fortune.
On Wednesday, about 300 Amazon’s 1,500 employees in Coventry are expected to go on strike.
But Mr. Westwood called the numbers “brilliant.” For example, Amazon doesn’t recognize unions, but the GMB says it has different numbers of members all over the UK.
Amazon has tried to stop US workers from joining unions.
More than half of the 8,000 Amazon workers in a warehouse on Staten Island, New York, voted to join the Amazon Labor Union, which is now official. The company says it will fight the certification, though.
Mr. Westwood said that the number of union members in Coventry was much bigger. “Thirty people were there in July. Now, it’s over 300, “he said.
He said that Coventry is a place where people from many different countries work. “They don’t understand that we can form a union, protest, and stop working here in the UK.
New Amazon center to create 1,400 new jobs.
When it opens, a new Amazon warehouse in the West Midlands could create up to 1,400 jobs, which could go up over time.
The company said that the robotic fulfillment center in Peddimore, Sutton Coldfield, would open in three years.
It will store millions of smaller items until they are bought.
The mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said that the news was a “vote of confidence” in the area.
Amazon says it will build two new places for robots. One will be in Peddimore, and the other will be in County Durham’s Stockton-on-Tees.
The company said that the second step in its sales process was a fulfillment center, where it took goods from vendors who had first come to one of its two large centers in Coventry and Doncaster.
The goods are then kept in fulfillment centers until bought and moved to sorting and delivery centers.
Robotic shelving will be used at the Peddimore center to help store things and then get to them. Amazon said that this type of center usually has more workers than ones without robots.
It said it would hire robotics engineers, technicians, and other experts in addition to sorting staff.