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17 Oct 2022

Heather Stewart, The Guardian

UK: Hundreds of Amazon workers balloted for strike action in UK first

"Amazon: Coventry workers balloted for strike action in UK first", 11 Oct 2022

Hundreds of Amazon workers at the company’s vast warehouse in Coventry hope to make history next week by becoming the first in the UK to vote for strike action against the delivery giant, which refuses to engage with unions.

Workers at the site, on land formerly occupied by Jaguar Land Rover, staged an informal walkout earlier this year, after being told their annual pay rise would be 50p an hour, taking the basic rate to £10.50.

With the backing of the GMB union, they have now become the first Amazon workers in the UK to take part in a formal ballot for strike action, demanding £15 an hour...

Staff – called “associates” by Amazon – describe being obliged to stand throughout 10-hour shifts, and subjected to rigorous targets.

If the ballot results in a vote for industrial action, they are poised to set strike dates for the key pre-Christmas period.

GMB members at the firm’s Doncaster warehouse are balloting simultaneously, and would coordinate any action with Coventry, though the union concedes its recruitment drive there is at an earlier stage.

Amazon is facing mounting pressure worldwide, from workers fighting for better pay and conditions...

The company has recently announced a £500 cost-of-living payment, in two tranches of £250. A message to staff seen by the Guardian warns that the second payment will be, “dependent on no unauthorised absence between 22 November [2o]22 and 24 December [2o]22”.

GMB believes this may constitute unlawful inducement not to strike, and has instructed solicitors to take legal action. Amazon insists the payment, which applies to all its UK staff, is unrelated to any potential industrial action...

A spokesperson for Amazon said, “starting pay for Amazon employees has increased to a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location. This represents a 29% increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to associates since 2018”.

The spokesman also highlighted the £500 cost of living payment, and added that employees are also offered a “comprehensive benefits package” that is “worth thousands of pounds annually”.