On Wednesday, Amazon workers will protest salary by going on the first-ever UK strike against the online retailer.
GMB union members are refusing to work at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse because of what they call a “derisory” wage raise of 50p per hour.
Workers complained to the BBC about “severe” working conditions, saying they are continuously watched and reprimanded for taking “idle time” that only lasts a few minutes.
A system “that recognizes exceptional performance” exists, according to Amazon.
If an employee isn’t hitting their performance targets, it “also encourages coaching to help them better,” a spokesman added.
However, two GMB-affiliated Amazon employees claimed that the robots in the warehouse were “treated better than humans.”
Even a trip to the restroom might result in queries from supervisors, according to Darren Westwood and Garfield Hilton, who explained this to the BBC.
The issue with stopping work is that people are curious as to why, according to Mr Hilton. So they can check the system if the time is longer than a few minutes.
Mr Hilton, who has diabetes, said it’s not always easy to locate restrooms inside the building, and it can occasionally take up to 15 minutes to find one and return.
“Then they will ask, “What were you doing? “
They said that management keeps tabs on employees’ performance and collects time that is not used for item scanning.
Workers at the Coventry warehouse inspect the merchandise before it is distributed to customers by Amazon fulfilment centres.
Employees can be asked to handle pallets rather than scan them. Therefore, Mr Westwood explained, “that time will accumulate when there are issues with a pallet or a box.
“Technically, the total might reach 30 minutes. The management will appear and inform the workers that they have been sitting idle for 34 minutes today. What did you do?”
Amazon’s spokesman stated: “Only when a worker is present at their station and logged in to perform their duties is performance evaluated.
“The performance management tool is halted if an employee logs out, which they can do at any moment.”
However, Mr Westwood and Mr Hilton claimed that the working environment is having an impact on their coworkers, some of whom are putting in 60-hour work weeks to keep up with living expenses.
On the brief bus ride to Amazon’s facility, Mr Hilton claimed that he had observed employees dozing off. There are really a ton of them in ghost mode throughout the place.
He stated that Amazon aims to “maximize every minute in the building.”
“If the box containing the merchandise is not moving, you must consider that you are not making any money. Amazon is in this. If a box has a malfunction, it will result in a loss. If the box departs, the building will profit.”
Amazon increased employee pay by 50p per hour in August.
According to an Amazon spokeswoman, the company is happy to offer competitive pay that starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location. We value the fantastic job our workers accomplish throughout the year.
He claimed that since 2018, the minimum hourly rate paid to Amazon employees has increased by 29%.
However, union members demand a wage of £15 per hour. The 50p offer, according to Mr Westwood, was “a smack in the mouth.”
He stated, “These folks had worked two years through the epidemic; they had seen Amazon’s shares soar and had seen the revenues just become incomprehensible.
As a result of Covid restrictions forcing customers to shop online, Amazon sales and profits increased. Profits nearly quadrupled to $21.3 billion (£17.2 billion) in 2020 and then increased once more to $33.3 billion in 2019.
Since the reopening of economies, growth has been uneven, and despite hiring thousands of new employees since 2019, Amazon is now letting go of 18,000 employees.
People “could think we’re being greedy,” according to Mr Westwood, if we demand £15 per hour. However, he cited Jeff Bezos, the creator, executive chairman, and space explorer of Amazon, who, according to Forbes magazine, is worth $120 billion.
Mr Westwood declared, “We don’t want his boat or his missiles.” “All we want is to be able to survive. At the end of the week, I just want to be able to pay my bills. That is all we are requesting.”
Around 300 of the 1,500 employees at Amazon’s Coventry facility are anticipated to walk out on Wednesday.
Says Amazon, “Only a small percentage of our staff is involved. In actuality, only 0.01% of our UK employees cast ballots, and that includes those who chose not to support industrial action, according to verifiable data.“
However, Mr Westwood deemed the figures to be “excellent.” Although Amazon does not recognize unions, the GMB reports that there are members in various numbers dispersed across the UK.
In the US, Amazon has fought against unionization.
In a vote that resulted in the Amazon Labor Union’s certification, more than half of the 8,000 workers at a Staten Island, New York, warehouse cast their ballots in favour of union membership. The business has promised to challenge the certification, nevertheless.
The number of union members in Coventry, according to Mr Westwood, is not insignificant. “In July, there were 30 people. It’s over 300 now “said he.
He claimed that Coventry employs people from a plethora of various ethnicities. “They don’t realize that this is the UK and that we have the right to organize a union, protest, and stop working.
They require a person, Mr Westwood said. “Although it will take a while, these people need someone who isn’t afraid.
“And I’m not afraid,”