Amazon workers to stage first ever strike in the UK in dispute over pay

Katie Neame
© Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock.com

Amazon workers in the GMB union will stage their first ever strike in the UK as part of a dispute with the multinational company over pay.

Hundreds of workers at an Amazon fulfilment centre in Coventry are expected to walk out today, following an industrial action ballot that saw 98% of members vote to strike on a turnout of more than 63%.

GMB said members had voted to strike “in anger over the company’s 50p-per-hour pay offer”. According to the union, its members currently receive £10.50 per hour. GMB has called for pay to be increased to £15 per hour.

Amazon told ITV News in December that the company offers “competitive pay which starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour depending on location”, which it said represents a 29% increase since 2018.

Commenting ahead of the walkout, GMB senior organiser Stuart Richards said: “Today, Amazon workers in Coventry will make history. They’ve defied the odds to become the first ever Amazon workers in the UK to go on strike.

“They’re taking on one of the world’s biggest companies to fight for a decent standard of living. They should be rightly proud of themselves. After six months of ignoring all requests to listen to workers’ concerns, GMB urges Amazon UK bosses to do the right thing and give workers a proper pay rise.”

GMB said its members will join two picket lines at the fulfilment centre between 4am and 8am and 4pm and 8pm, with a rally scheduled during the afternoon.

The union announced the result of its strike ballot, which was held among approximately 300 workers at the warehouse, in December. Commenting at the time, senior organiser Amanda Gearing said members “should be applauded for their grit and determination”.

She added: “The fact that they are being forced to go on strike to win a decent rate of pay from one of the world’s most valuable companies should be a badge of shame for Amazon.” GMB has warned that further strike dates will be announced in the coming weeks.

In an interview with LabourList in December, TUC general secretary Paul Nowak identified Amazon as an employer that unions globally have “got to get to grips with”, adding that he hopes the strike action by workers in Coventry will be a “little bit of the spark that lights the flame”.

Appearing before the Commons business committee in November, Amazon’s head of public policy for Europe Brian Palmer confirmed that the company tracks the productivity of workers within its warehouses via surveillance technology and that workers can be fired for repeatedly missing productivity targets.

Committee chair and Labour MP Darren Jones highlighted the case of a 63-year-old constituent who was told he would be sacked if he received “three strikes on his productivity tracking”.

Asked whether such an approach was Amazon policy, Palmer said the workers who leave the company for “performance-related reasons” are a “very small minority”. But when he was pressed on whether an employee could be fired if they have “three productivity flags on the system”, Palmer said: “Yes.”

Amazon announced in July 2022 that its total UK revenues rose by 12.6% during the previous year to £23.2bn. Amazon UK Services, the company’s warehouse and logistics operation, grew its revenues by just over a quarter to £6.09bn.

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