Amazon Workers Stage First UK Walkout

Amazon Coventry UK facility feature

Inside Amazon facility in Coventry, UK (credit: Coventry Telegraph)

While Amazon has been able to stay ahead of growing efforts at labor organizing in the U.S., at least for the time being, union workers at an Amazon facility in the UK midlands have walked off the job in protest over pay, a first in the country, according to several media reports.

The GMB union there told Reuters that 300 of its 350 members at the Amazon facility in Coventry, near Birmingham, staged a 24-hour walkout on Wednesday, citing pay and long hours as their key grievances. The fulfillment center employs 1,000.

Amazon has boosted its starting pay to be ahead of most in the ecommerce fulfillment sector, but workers are often still dissatisfied based on the rigor of the jobs performed to keep orders flying out the door. They also complain about injury rates and the high-tech monitoring of workers, the same issues raised by Amazon workers here.

“These workers are having to work incredibly long shifts, just to try and make ends meet, just to try and feed their families,” GMB representative Stuart Richards told Reuters. “We’ve got to be better than that.” Workers also said “robots are treated better” than they are.

Union members said an hourly increase of 50 pence (56 cents) last summer was insufficient and failed to keep pace with inflation, CNBC reported. They’re seeking a minimum of £15 per hour or $18.51 at today’s exchange rate.

Two weeks ago, Amazon lost a labor battle when a federal regulator ruled against its petition to have a successful union vote at a Staten Island, NY fulfillment center decertified due to what it alleges were improprieties and government favoritism. That FC, the birthplace of the Amazon Workers Union, has become a particular hotspot and thorn in Amazon’s side.

The union challenges come at a particularly unfortunate time for Amazon, which has reported some rough quarterly numbers in the recent past and is in the midst of laying off 18,000 in the U.S., mostly office personnel, as are many tech firms.