‘We’re not robots,’ say Amazon warehouse workers in UK on less hike, go on strike

A few hundred workers at an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom (UK) walked out on Wednesday (January 25) over a pay increase worth five per cent, less than half the current inflation rate. This is the first strike that the e-commerce giant is facing in the UK. The warehouse is located in Coventry, central England and the workers there held a banner which said, “We are not robots,” while another banner said, “We are worth more.” Stuart Richards from the GMB union said, “The first-ever Amazon workers in the UK to go on strike” were “taking on one of the world’s biggest companies to fight for a decent standard of living,” news agency AFP reported. 

Richards said that after six months of ignoring all requests to listen to the concerns of the workers, the GMB union urged the bosses of Amazon UK to do the right thing and give workers a proper pay raise. Speaking to news agency Reuters, Richards said “So the Amazon worker’s pay demand is £15 an hour, again we’ve taken that from what’s happening in America. We saw Amazon talking around trying to persuade workers that they didn’t need a union because they were paying $15 an hour. They’ve now raised that to $18 meanwhile workers in the UK are lagging far behind. They’re on £10.50 at this warehouse at the moment.”

Richards said that the warehouse workers (in the UK) were working incredibly long shifts just to try and make ends meet, just to try and feed their families. He added that Amazon was a multi-million-pound company that made huge amounts of money. “They may not pay any tax but they certainly make a lot of money and it’s on the back of these workers. We’re saying a part of that profit needs to go to support these workers, so they can actually live decent lives,” he said. 

Another union official, Amanda Gearing, told the AFP on Wednesday that the warehouse workers were also protesting against ”other conditions” which she described as horrendous. “They’re just having to work, work, work, they’re not allowed to talk to people, it’s difficult to take a toilet break,” she said. 

This strike in the UK comes as tens of thousands of workers in the country including nurses, ambulance workers, teachers and railway staff have been protesting over pay and working conditions. On Monday (January 23), thousands of ambulance workers held another strike in the country with unions calling on the government to hold talks to improve pay and working conditions. Previously, the strikes (by ambulance workers) were held on January 11 and December 21, 2022. Further strikes are expected in February.  

(With inputs from agencies)

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