Amazon workers first vote to strike at Coventry depot in UK | Amazon | Daily News Byte

Amazon workers first vote to strike at Coventry depot in UK |  Amazon

 | Daily News Byte

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Amazon workers at a huge depot in Coventry are set to go on strike in the New Year, demanding £15 an hour pay, after securing a historic yes vote in a ballot for industrial action.

GMB union members opted to hold a second vote earlier this year after narrowly missing the 50% voting threshold.

This time the turnout was 63%, with 98% supporting strike action, the first time Amazon workers in the UK have voted.

While that voting amount is less than a quarter Of the 1,400 or so staff employed at the plant, the GMB hailed it as a major victory, given Amazon’s long-documented hostility to trade unions.

Amanda Gearing, senior organiser, GMB, said: “Amazon workers in Coventry have made history – they should be applauded for their courage and determination – fighting for what is right in the face of a terribly hostile environment.”

Workers on the site staged an informal stoppage in the summer after being told they would receive a pay rise of 50p an hour, taking the basic rate to £10.50.

Hayley Greaves, a GMB member who works at the Coventry plant, said: “The cost of living is going up and we are really struggling. People work 60 hours a week if they can get it, or if they can’t get 60 hours, they’re doing other jobs.

“Different people are joining for different reasons. If we all band together and stick together, we might have a fighting chance to make some changes for everyone.”

Coventry workers have won the support of US organizers who recently won union recognition at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. Derrick Palmer, of the Amazon labor union, joined a recent online rally in support of their cause.

The depot, built on land formerly occupied by Jaguar Land Rover, receives goods from sellers and sorts them into batches for shipment to Amazon’s fulfillment centers, which then ship the parcels to customers.

Greaves echoed another worker who spoke anonymously to the Guardian earlier this year, describing high-pressure working conditions, with staff set targets of sorting hundreds of items an hour. “If you’ve been there for four years and it’s your fourth or fifth shift of the week, you might not make it by three in the morning,” she said.

She adds that resentment that some colleagues received meager pay increases was particularly acute because Amazon staff were among those who worked during the pandemic. “We were classified as core workers. We worked all through Covid, none of us had a day off,” she said.

An Amazon spokesperson said: “We appreciate the great work done by our teams throughout the year and are proud to offer a competitive salary, which starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 an hour depending on location. This represents a 29% increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to Amazon employees since 2018.

They added that employees will receive an additional one-off £500 payment “as an extra thank you”.

The payment was announced while the GMB’s first ballot was being held and the union complained that they could be unfairly motivated not to strike, as the second installment of £250 was “dependent on unauthorized absences between 22 November and 24 December “, according to the message to the staff.

This covers the period they were hoping to strike if the first ballot had resulted in a Yes vote.

James Schneider, communications director at Progressive International, which co-convened the worldwide Make Amazon Pay campaign, said: “Congratulations to Coventry workers and their union, the GMB, for standing up for themselves and their families.

“All over the world, workers are facing a sharp rise in the cost of living but Amazon is refusing to raise wages with inflation, squeezing every cut. Everyone knows the company has money to do right by its workers and yet it refuses.

Strike action is now expected to take place in January. Amazon says customers are unlikely to be affected because the plant is not a fulfillment center for sending parcels. However, GMB hopes to cause significant disruption.

The stoppage will come as a wave of strikes continues across the UK amid double-digit inflation, with nurses, rail staff, civil servants and postal workers already on strike and teachers currently voting.

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