Amazon workers at a vast depot in Coventry are poised to go on strike in the latest year, demanding pay of £15 an hour after securing a historic yes vote in a ballot for industrial action.
Members of the GMB union opted to carry a second ballot after narrowly missing the 50% turnout threshold earlier this year.
This while the turnout was 63%, with 98% of those backing strike action, marking the first time Amazon workers in the UK have voted to do so.
While that ballot amounts to fewer than a quarter of the 1,400 staff employed at the plant, the GMB called it a victory, given Amazon’s long-documented hostility to trade unions.
Amanda Gearing, a senior organizer at the GMB, said that Amazon workers in Coventry have made history – they should be commended for their grit and determination – fighting for what’s right in the face of an appallingly hostile environment.
Workers at the site produced an informal stoppage in the summer when they were told they would receive a pay rise of 50p an hour, taking the basic rate to £10.50.
Hayley Greaves, a GMB member, who works at the Coventry plant, said the cost of living is going up, and we’re struggling. People are doing, 60 hours a week if they can call it, or if they can’t get 60 hours, they’re doing other jobs.
Different individuals are joining for different causes. If we all join jointly and stick together, we might have a fighting chance to make some changes for everyone.
The Coventry workers have won the backing of US organizers who recently secured union recognition at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. Derrick Palmer of the Amazon Labor Union joined a recent online protest in support of their cause.
The depot, made on land previously occupied by Jaguar Land Rover, receives goods from sellers and sorts them into batches to be dispatched to Amazon’s fulfillment centers, which then send out parcels to consumers.
Greaves echoed another employee the Guardian spoke to anonymously earlier this year in describing high-pressure working needs, with staff set targets to sort hundreds of items an hour. If you’ve been there four years and it’s your fourth or fifth change of the week, you might not be able to get that by three o’clock in the morning, she said.
She counts that resentment about what some associates felt was a paltry pay rise was especially acute since Amazon staff were among those who performed throughout the pandemic. We were classed as key employees. We performed all through Covid, none of us had any time off, she said.
An Amazon spokesperson said to appreciate the great work our teams do throughout the year and we’re scornful to offer competitive pay, which starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 an hour, depending on location. This means a 29% growth in the minimum hourly wage paid to Amazon employees since 2018.
They added that employees would receive an additional one-off £500 payment as an extra thank you.
These payments announced while the GMB’s first ballot was taking place and the union had complained they could amount to an unfair inducement not to strike the second £250 tranche was dependent on no unauthorized absence between 22 November and 24 December according to a message to staff.
This covered the period when they had expected to strike if the first ballot had resulted in a yes vote.
James Schneider, the director of the contact for Progressive International, which co-convenes the worldwide Make Amazon Pay campaign, said Congratulations to the Coventry employees and their union, the GMB, for standing up for themselves and their families.
All over the world, employees are facing a sharp rise in the cost of living but Amazon is refusing to increase wages with inflation, squeezing every drop it can. Everyone understands the company has the money to do right by its workers and yet it refuses.
Strike action is expected to take place in January. Amazon says it is unlikely to have an impact on customers because the plant is not a fulfillment center dispatching parcels. However, the GMB is hopeful of causing significant disruption.
The jam will take place as a wave of strikes continues to sweep across the UK amid double-digit inflation, with nurses, rail staff, civil servants, and postal employees already striking and teachers currently balloting.
Amazon employees at a depot in Coventry are balanced to go on strike in the New Year over a £15-an-hour pay suit after members voted yes in a ballot for industrial action.
Members of the GMB Union voted to hold a two-ballot after narrowly missing out on the 50% turnout threshold in October. In the new vote, 63% of members cast a ballot, with 98%, of them in favor of a strike in the new year.
Nearly a quarter of the 1,400 staff used at a depot in Coventry could walk out, becoming the first Amazon workers in the UK to strike.
Amanda Gearing, a senior organizer at the GMB, told the Guardian that Amazon workers in Coventry made history. They should be commended for their grit and determination, fighting for what’s right in the face, of an appallingly hostile environment.
Workers at the site entered others in the UK in staging walkouts in the summer over pay rises.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “We value the great work our teams do throughout the year and we’re proud to offer competitive pay, which starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on site. This means a 29% increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to Amazon employees since 2018. Employees also offered comprehensive benefits worth thousands more—including private medical insurance, life assurance, subsidized meals, and an employee discount, to name a few.