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Amazon workers stage Black Friday protests across Europe & USA over 'exploitative' working conditions & low pay

Workers at Amazon warehouses and distrbution centres have staged protests - over low pay, poor working conditions and climate concerns - across Europe and the USA to coincide with the online retailer's annual discounted shopping day, Black Friday. Protests have continued to cover Cyber Monday, another crucial sales period for Amazon. 

In recent years Amazon has faced repeated strikes in relation to "exploitative" working conditions, which unions and labour advocates say intensifies during busy sales periods. 

Amazon has denied that its staff are badly treated and has said that it is "a fair and responsible employer". More company comments can be found in the articles below. 

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Article
29 November 2019

UK: Unions stage Black Friday protests at Amazon warehouses following reports of high ambulance call-out rates

Author: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

"Black Friday protests at Amazon warehouses in England", 29 November 2019

A union has held protests outside Amazon warehouses to coincide with the Black Friday sales.

GMB members gathered in Sheffield, Rugeley and Peterborough. Amazon said no workers had been involved in the protests.

The union said the protests came after "more than 600 ambulance call-outs" to Amazon warehouses in three years...

...Amazon said the protests involved "a total of 30 external, pro-union people" at a small number of its 50 UK sites...

...GMB said its members had described Amazon's targets as "so horrific" they had to use plastic bottles to urinate in instead of going to the toilet, with pregnant women forced to stand for hours on end...

An Amazon spokesperson said: "Self-interested critics...have a vested interest in spreading misinformation...The truth is that Amazon already offers industry-leading pay, starting at £9.50 an hour, comprehensive benefits, as well as a safe, modern work environment..."...

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Article
2 December 2019

Black Friday protesters across Europe allege Amazon has “destructive” policies towards employees & environment

Author: Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

“Black Friday protests across Europe demand Amazon ‘start treating workers like human – not robots’”, 29 November 2019.

Labour activists and climate campaigners used…Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, to call attention to and protest Amazon’s…working conditions, paltry benefits, and destructive environmental practices. "Workers are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious, and being taken away in ambulances," said... the GMB Union, which organized demonstrations at Amazon warehouses across the United Kingdom… “Amazon has spent a fortune on fluffy adverts…Why not spend the money on making their warehouses less dangerous[?]…[we] are people – not robots”.

…Amazon employees at locations throughout the U.K. have reported being denied restroom breaks, penalized for taking sick days, and forced to work at a dangerous pace..."GMB members report targets being so horrific they have to use plastic bottles to urinate in…and pregnant women have been forced to stand for hours on end”…

In France, demonstrators held sit-ins at Amazon's Clichy headquarters to condemn [Amazon’s]…contributions to the climate crisis…

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Article
2 December 2019

Germany: Hundreds of Amazon workers stage Black Friday strike over pay & working conditions

Author: RTÉ News

“German Amazon workers strike on ‘Black Friday’”, 29 November 2019

The strike, called by the powerful German Verdi union, is set to last until Tuesday morning. Hundreds of Amazon workers in Germany walked off the job as the online retailer kicked off its "Black Friday"…escalating a…battle for better pay and working conditions”.  The strike…is set to also cover “Cyber Monday”, another…crucial sales period for Amazon.

Verdi spokeswoman [said]... "several hundred" employees had started the stoppage at Amazon distribution centres... "Their work cannot be had at rock-bottom prices,"… [Verdi] demanding a collective labour agreement to ensure "a living wage and good, healthy jobs". The union accused Amazon of "withholding basic rights”, …making them work "under extreme pressure". 

Amazon played down the strike's impact, saying "packages will arrive on time". The company has long resisted the union's call for labour negotiations, defending its work environment and insisting that it is "one of the best employers in the logistics industry…We pay at the upper end of what is usual for comparable work, we offer additional benefits and review wages annually”. Amazon has been hit by repeated strikes in Germany and other countries in recent years...

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Article
2 December 2019

UK: Amazon accused of failing to pay corporation tax by protesters outside London headquarters

Author: Jessica Clark, City A.M.

"Unions protest outside Amazon's London HQ on Cyber Monday", 2 December 2019

Union members demonstrated outside Amazon’s London headquarters this morning and accused the e-commerce giant of failing to pay the correct amount of corporation tax. 

The GMB union estimated that the retailer should have paid £103m in corporation tax last year, but claims the company’s biggest UK arm paid £14m of tax on £2.3bn worth of sales...

...In response to the demonstrations Amazon said: “These calculations are completely incorrect...they assume uniformity of profits across geographies, which isn’t the case."...

...“In the UK, we’ve invested £18bn since 2010 and we employ 29,500 people. We pay all taxes owed and our total tax contribution in the UK in 2018 was £793m – £220m in direct taxes and £573m in indirect taxes.”

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Article
2 December 2019

Unions organise Black Friday strikes over Amazon's pay & "appalling" working conditions

Author: Sam Corbishley, Metro

“Amazon hit by Black Friday strikes and protests across Europe”, 29 November 2019

Amazon was targeted by a UK-wide protest organised to coincide with Black Friday and Cyber Monday demanding an end to ‘appalling’ working conditions. In another blow…distribution centres across Germany walked out amid a long-simmering battle for better pay. Trade union GMB…union, [United Kingdom] cited figures suggesting there had been more than 600 ambulance call-outs to Amazon warehouses over a three-year period...

[An] Amazon spokesperson blasted “self-interested critics”…“The truth is that Amazon already offers industry-leading pay, comprehensive benefits, as well as a safe, modern work environment…[t]hese groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favour, when in fact we already offer the things they claim to be fighting for.’

Amazon workers in Germany marked Black Friday by going on strike for better pay. Union ver.di announced that the walkouts would affect six distribution centres. [R]epresentative Orhan Akman said…that their work can’t be bought with the kind of extreme discounts offered by the online retail giant this time of year,…also accus[ing] the company of putting “extreme pressure” on staff that has caused some to fall ill...

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Article
3 December 2019

USA: Amazon warehouse workers plan 'Cyber Monday' protest over working conditions & environmental record

Author: Lauren Kaori Gurley, VICE

"Amazon Workers to Protest Outside Jeff Bezos' Penthouse on Cyber Monday", 2 December 2019

Amazon warehouse workers will march on Jeff Bezos’s $80 million penthouse apartment on Cyber Monday, one of the company’s most profitable sales days of the year... [to] protest the company’s grueling working conditions and environmental record in the communities it operates.

“... [We] will speak out to let Jeff Bezos know that the world is watching, and that the movement to end Amazon’s abuses of power is growing across the country,” spokespeople for the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN), one of the coalitions... said in a statement. “The march will shine a light on the fact that every click on Amazon translates to more workers getting hurt on the job and more pollution in our local communities.”...

Alongside warehouse workers, members of ALIGN, Tech Worker Coalition, Mijente, Democratic Socialists of America, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, and Athena, a newly formed coalition of anti-Amazon organizations, will attend Monday’s protest outside Bezos’ penthouse...

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