Amazon warehouse workers in the UK and 40 other countries go on strike and organize protests to coincide with the Black Friday sales, one of the biggest shopping days of the year for the company.
Employees in dozens of countries, from Japan and Australia to India, the United States and across Europe, are demanding better wages and conditions in a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay.”
In the UK, hundreds of GMB union members are staging strikes or protests at several Amazon warehouses, including a protest outside its fulfillment center in Coventry.
“We are here today to tell Amazon [that] if you want to keep your empire going, talk to GMB about improving workers’ pay and conditions,” said Amanda Gearing, a senior organizer at GMB. “Amazon workers are overworked, underpaid and ne they’ve had enough.”
Profits of Amazon Services UK, the group’s warehouse and logistics operation, which is believed to employ more than half of the company’s UK workforce of nearly 75,000, rose 60% to £204m, with revenues in growing by just over a quarter to more than £6bn last year.
Workers are calling for a wage rise from £10.50 to £15 an hour as the cost-of-living crisis hits household budgets.
However, joining the action in the UK could mean protesters miss out on the second leg of a £500 bonus agreed by Amazon for tens of thousands of frontline workers.
Last month, Amazon UK said awarding the second leg of the payment was dependent on staff not taking ‘unauthorised absences’ between 22 November and Christmas Eve.
The GMB argued that linking the payment to the presence of staff could be seen as an illegal move against the strike.
In Dublin, Extinction Rebellion staged a protest outside the Amazon offices starting at 1pm.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “These groups represent a variety of interests, and while we’re not perfect in any one area, if you look objectively at what Amazon is doing on these important issues, you’ll see that we play our part and impact a lot. seriously.
“We are inventing and investing significantly in all of these areas, playing a significant role in tackling climate change with our net-zero carbon climate commitment by 2040, continuing to deliver competitive wages and great benefits, and inventing new ways to keep our employees safe and sound in our operational network, just to name a few.”
In London, security guards and CCTV operators at Harrods are also going on strike over Black Friday, including a protest outside the luxury Knightsbridge store, the first of 12 days of action over the festive period.
More than 50 staff members are taking part in the protests, which will take place every weekend in December and include Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, plus a 7% wage offer they see as a ‘cut’ as inflation grips runs at more than 11%.
Last month, Harrods, which is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, reported an annual profit of £51m, more than doubled its chief executive’s pay to £2.3m and revealed it raised nearly £6 million in government support during the Covid leave scheme.
“Harrods and its owners can absolutely afford to pay these workers a raise that reflects the rising cost of living,” said Sharon Graham, secretary general of union Unite.
Meanwhile, industry body UKHospitality said a series of rail strikes planned in the run-up to Christmas would cost UK restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars £1.5bn and called on the government to bring everyone together partners to try to reach a solution.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Marine and Transport Workers, said the strikes would go ahead, after an initial meeting with Transport Secretary Mark Harper to try to settle the dispute on Thursday.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls 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 hospitality businesses during the busiest time of the year and once again force the public to cancel and rearrange plans,” he said. “The impact of the rail strikes this year already 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.”