Amazon workers ready for ‘David and Goliath battle’ against employer over poor pay conditions

Amazon Warehouse

Amazon workers have said that they are ready for a “David and Goliath battle” as they begin their second round of strikes this year over poor pay and working conditions.

More than 350 workers at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse will walk out today in anger at a pay rise of 50 pence.

Employees at the warehouse have said they want a wage of £15 an hour, after the rise saw their pay increase to £10.50 an hour – just £1.50 above the national minimum wage of £9.50.

“Here in Coventry Amazon workers are again standing on the picket line after one of the world’s most profitable companies has denied them a wage they can live off,” Stuart Richards, senior organiser at GMB union, said.

The workers initially began strike action in January, making history as the first UK branch of Amazon employees to revolt over conditions.

Amazon workers will also walk out on Thursday 2 March and for five consecutive days from 13-17 March.

Richards continued: “It’s a David and Goliath battle and our members are determined to make sure it ends with a pay rise they deserve.

“Morale is sky high and the support from local people in Coventry and Amazon workers around the world has been extraordinary. This is just the start of GMB members escalating their campaign for fair pay at Amazon.”

Amazon workers at the Coventry warehouse have also spoken up about the poor working conditions they have experienced. Employees have previously alleged to the BBC that staff are constantly monitored, with timed toilet breaks and reprimands for just minutes of “idle time”.

“Amazon does not recognise the trade union involved (GMB) so this is a very difficult position to manage for them”, Jo Mackie, head of employment law at Lawrence Stephens, told Business Matters.

She continued: “If Amazon is timing toilet breaks, that is both belittling and degrading to their employees, and Amazon would be wise to stop this workhouse practice to prevent further action being taken against them.”

When approached for comment on the industrial action, an Amazon spokesperson said only a “tiny proportion” of its workforce was involved and defended its pay offer as “competitive”.

“A tiny proportion of our workforce is involved. In fact, according to the verified figures, only a fraction of one per cent of our UK employees voted in the ballot – and that includes those who voted against industrial action,” the spokesperson said.

“We appreciate 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 location. This represents a 29 per cent increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to Amazon employees since 2018. Employees are also offered comprehensive benefits that are worth thousands more – including private medical insurance, life assurance, subsidised meals and an employee discount, to name a few.”