Amazon workers across Europe staged a WALKOUT on Black Friday to protest measly pay, working conditions
On Black Friday, Nov. 24, one of the busiest days of the year, workers at Amazon fulfillment centers and warehouses located at multiple locations across Europe walked out in protest against the U.S. e-commerce giant’s labor practices.
The “Make Amazon Pay Day” initiative – a campaign coordinated by the UNI Global Union – made the call for strikes from Black Friday. Industrial action was planned in more than 30 countries, including the U.S., on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday – when many retailers slash their prices to boost sales until Monday. (Related: Amazon becomes first company ever to lose $1 trillion in market value.)
“There will also be protests in Australia, Brazil, India, etc. We have 35 countries in the world asking the same thing as us. Because Amazon is a global company, we all have the same working conditions and the same level of remuneration, which is at the lowest of what countries are allowed to pay. We are all in the same mess so we are all asking the same thing – for salary increases and working [conditions] worthy of the 21st century,” said a striking Amazon employee whose name was not disclosed.
An Amazon Germany spokesperson said only a small number were on strike and assured its customers that deliveries of Black Friday orders would be reliable and timely – despite reported demonstrations at nine out of Amazon’s 20 warehouses in the country.
Verdi, the second largest German trade union with 1.9 million members, said that the call for work standstill was part of a dispute that began in 2018 over Amazon’s refusal to recognize industry-wide pay agreements and demanded a collective bargaining agreement on wages and stipulations for employees’ well-being.
A Verdi spokesperson noted that a number of warehouse employees had to walk a distance of up to 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) per day on the job.
The union reported that around 2,000 workers went on strike across six Amazon fulfillment centers – affecting centers in Bad Hersfeld, Dortmund, Koblenz, Leipzig and Rheinberg. Around 500 out of 1,250 (40 percent) workers had gone on strike at a warehouse in Rheinberg and some 250 out of 1,250 (20 percent) workers in Leipzig.
Amazon had repeatedly stated that workers were paid fair wages – with a starting pay of more than €14 ($15.27) an hour.
Amazon workers at the company’s warehouse in Coventry, the most central city in England, first went on strike in January to demand better wages to deal with high inflation, Reuters reported. (Related: Amazon warehouse workers in Britain walk out of their jobs over paltry pay increase, terrible working conditions.
The GMB trade union said that more than 1,000 workers at Amazon’s warehouse in central England, including some 12 other sites, put down their tools on Nov. 21 until Black Friday as part of a long-running dispute over wages – chanting their demand for a pay rise to £15 ($18.69) an hour and better working conditions.
On Oct 9, Amazon UK announced it would spend £170 million ($207 million) to pay wage increases that will benefit tens of thousands of employees across the U.K., as well as over 15,000 seasonal employees who will be hired at Amazon sites across the country this holiday season.
Amazon, which employs 75,000 employees in the U.K., said that wage increases for its frontline operations will be given in two installments over the next six months.
“From Oct. 15, minimum starting pay would increase by at least £1 ($1.26) an hour to between £11.80 ($14.91) and £12.50 ($15.79) – depending on location. Pay rates will further increase to between £12.30 ($15.34) and £13 ($16.42) an hour starting April 2024.”
The company said the increases meant that Amazon’s starting pay would have risen by 20 percent in two years, and 50 percent since 2018.
Amazon France reported that so far, there had been no sign of disruptions in operations.
Two officials of France’s SUD-PTT and CGT (General Confederation of Labor) unions, who called for strike action in the country’s eight warehouses, said they were not expecting a big turnout. They explained that the rising cost of living was driving the employees to seek overtime, rather than put down their tools.
Instead, around 40 Amazon parcel lockers located at street corners and in supermarket car parks and train stations – used by many customers to receive orders – were plastered with posters and barricade tape, according to anti-globalization organization Attac.
Reuters reported that Attac, which planned the protests in France, referred to Black Friday as a “celebration of overproduction and overconsumption.”
With more than 86 percent of its employees combining to work on Black Friday, Amazon said there has been no impact on its operations in Italy. Trade union CGIL, however, reported that more than 60 percent of workers at the Amazon warehouse in Castel San Giovanni dropped their tools.
Reuters reported that the Spanish labor union CCOO urged around 20,000 warehouse and delivery workers at Amazon’s local unit to walk out to demand better pay and working conditions on the so-called Cyber Monday discount day on Nov. 27, when retailers offer great discounts and launch special sales similar to those in the U.S. – to boost Christmas gift buying.
The largest trade union at Amazon Spain, CCOO said it wanted the company to “improve labor safety and acknowledge workplace risks in the country, boost human resources staff and raise wages” – arguing that their current remuneration is not commensurate with the workers’ workload volume.
In a news update, the outlet said that Amazon decided to agree with most of its employees’ demands in Spain. This sought to avoid the full impact of their planned one-hour work stoppage per shift for three shifts, on one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.
In a statement sent to Reuters, a local Amazon spokesperson claimed: “Our staff in all of Spain already work in a safe and modern environment with competitive wages and benefits.”
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