Amazon workers are staging the first ever UK strike on Wednesday to protest pay.
Over 300 Amazon workers walked out of their Coventry warehouse over a “derisory” 5% pay increase to £10.50 an hour, the GMB union claimed.
BBC workers reported “severe” conditions at work, claiming they are constantly monitored and reprimanded for “idle time” lasting only a few minutes.
According to Amazon, it has a system that recognizes great performance.
According to a spokesman, the company offers coaching to help employees improve if they are not meeting their performance goals.
According to two GMB members who work at Amazon, robots are treated better than humans in the warehouse.
Even a trip to the toilet can lead to questions from managers, according to Darren Westwood and Garfield Hilton.
If the time exceeds a couple of minutes, they can see it on the system, said Hilton. “The thing about stopping work is that they want to know why.”
You will be questioned by them
It can sometimes take upwards of 15 minutes for Mr Hilton, who has diabetes, to find a toilet in the building and return.
As a result, they will ask you, “What were you doing?”.”
Coventry Amazon workers voted in December to take strike action. They said managers track staff performance, and unscanned items are accrued.
In the Coventry warehouse, workers scan stock that will be shipped to Amazon fulfillment centers.
“So when there are problems with a pallet or box, that time will accrue,” Mr Westwood said.
“Technically, it could add up to 30 minutes. [The managers] will come down and say, “During today, you had 34 minutes of idle time. What did you do?”
“Performance is only measured when an employee is at their desk and logged in.” said an Amazon spokesperson.
When an employee logs out, which they can do at any time, the performance management tool is paused.”
He said Amazon’s pay offer insulted workers after they put their health at risk to work during the height of the pandemic.
As one reason for striking, he said the public needed to know what goes on behind the scenes.
According to him, Amazon portrays an image that “everything is fine”, but he added: “That’s not the case.”
Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos, seen here with his partner Lauren Sánchez, has a $120 billion fortuneAn Amazon spokesman said it was “proud” of its “competitive” pay rate. He said the starting pay for workers was £11.45 an hour in London and the South East, and £10.50 an hour in the rest of the UK.
Since 2018, Amazon employees have been paid a minimum hourly wage that has increased by 29%.
Mr Westwood said 50p was a “smack in the face” to union members who want £15 an hour.
“These people worked two years through the pandemic, seeing Amazon’s shares go through the roof. They had seen profits that were impossible to imagine,” he said.
Mr Westwood, however, said the numbers were “brilliant”. Amazon does not recognize unions, but there are GMB members scattered throughout the UK.
In the US, Amazon has been fighting unionization.
More than half of the 8,000 workers at a warehouse on Staten Island, New York, voted to join the Amazon Labor Union, which is now officially recognized. However, Amazon has vowed to appeal the decision.
There are a variety of nationalities working at Coventry, according to Mr Westwood. “They don’t understand this is the UK – we can organise a union, protest, and withdraw our labor,” he said.
I know it’s going to be a long slog, but these people need someone who’s not afraid. And I am not afraid.”