Amazon members of the GMB union who work at a distribution centre in Coventry have voted to strike in the new year, in a UK first.
The union has hailed it a major victory as staff voted for industrial action on Friday [16 December], and have demanded for a pay rise to £15 an hour.
Members of the GMB union opted to hold a second ballot after missing the 50% turnout threshold in September. This time the turnout was 63%, with 98% of those backing strike action, marking the first time Amazon workers in the UK have voted to do so.
Amanda Gearing, a senior organiser at the GMB, said: “Amazon workers in Coventry have made history – they should be applauded for their grit and determination – fighting for what’s right in the face of an appallingly hostile environment.”
Workers at the site had previously staged an informal stoppage, when they were told they would receive a pay rise of 50p an hour, taking the basic rate to £10.50.
An Amazon spokesperson, told The Guardian: “We appreciate the great work our teams do throughout the year and we’re proud to offer competitive pay, which starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 a hour, depending on location. This represents a 29% increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to Amazon employees since 2018.”
They added that employees would receive an extra one-off £500 payment, “as an extra thank you”.
However, Greaves stressed that workers at the Coventry site are having to deal with high-pressure working conditions with staff set targets to sort hundreds of items an hour. “If you’ve been there four years and it’s your fourth or fifth shift of the week, you might not be able to get that by three o’clock in the morning,” she said.
She added that resentment about what some colleagues felt was a paltry pay rise was particularly acute since Amazon staff were among those who worked throughout the pandemic. “We were classed as key workers. We worked all through Covid, none of us had any time off,” she added.