On 24 November, workers formed a picket line outside the warehouse, waving flags of GMB, a British trade union. They chanted as they demanded a pay raise to £15 an hour alongside improved working conditions in what was their 28th day of industrial action. Amazon’s Coventry distribution warehouse is one of the company’s most strategically important ones in the UK.
This isn’t just a US fight, this is a global fight, so we are happy to come here to support our brothers and sisters at the GMB
Jessie Moreno, US-based Amazon delivery driver
Speaking to a crowd, trade union official Ferdousara Uddin condemned Amazon’s refusal to meet unions’ pay demands. They noted that, whilst the company reported $143 billion in revenue this year, workers say they struggle to put food on the table.
Amazon announced in October that the minimum starting wage for warehouse operatives would rise to £12.30 next April, from the £11.80 instituted this October.
Staff at the Coventry site, which has previously come under media scrutiny for its allegedly unsafe and degrading working environment, were the first to strike in the country last January after rejecting the offer of a 50p increase in minimum pay to £11.
An Amazon spokesperson claimed the Black Friday strike would not lead to any disruption for consumers.
Those at the picket line were joined by fellow striking Amazon workers and trade unionists from the US, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, who emphasised the importance of international worker solidarity.
“This isn’t just a US fight, this is a global fight, so we are happy to come here to support our brothers and sisters at the GMB,” declared Jessie Moreno, an Amazon delivery driver from California.
Protests and strikes were organized in over 30 countries as part of the ‘Make Amazon Pay’ campaign. 2000 workers walked out across Germany – Amazon’s second-biggest sales market – and 60% of staff at the distribution centre in Castel San Giovanni, Italy, also took part in industrial action, according to local trade unions.
GMB organisers at the Coventry depot made an official bid for formal union recognition earlier this year but rescinded their application after Amazon hired over a thousand extra workers – a move that prevented the union from being able to claim it represented over half of the workforce.
The union subsequently rescinded the application and claimed this was an intentional attempt to ‘bust’ the union. Amazon, which refuted the claim, has been accused of similar ‘union busting’ tactics at sites around the world.
In an official statement, Amazon’s UK manager said: “We’re proud to offer [our staff] competitive wages and benefits, as well as fantastic opportunities for career development, all in a safe and modern work environment.”
Regular industrial action at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse is expected to continue indefinitely.