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Warehousing

Wildcat walkouts over pay at UK Amazon warehouses

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Workers have launched a spree of wildcat walkouts across Amazon warehouses in the UK. The action has been sparked by the trillion-dollar company’s imposition of an insulting pay award.

At Amazon’s Tilbury warehouse in Essex, one of the largest in Europe, around 800 workers on the Wednesday night shift walked off the job after hearing they would receive a 35 pence pay rise (around 3 percent), from £11.10 to £11.45 an hour for Tier 1 workers and £11.35 to £11.70 for workers with more than 3 years at the company.

Amazon’s LCY2 warehouse in Tilbury, Essex [Photo: WSWS]

Workers staged a sit-in at the canteen, discussing demands for a £2.00-£3.00 increase. They jeered when a supervisor told them to go back to their stations, “You wanted to make a point; you made it. Every level in Amazon is aware of the situation.”

When the supervisor claimed, “Staying in the canteen is probably not very safe with so many people,” there were boos and cries of “We’re used to it!” Told their action was “not going to change anything,” the strikers responded, “You’re losing money,” with one saying, “The cost of living is going up and up.”

The next day, the Bank of England announced inflation will hit 13 percent in Britain, meaning Amazon is enforcing a de facto 10 percent pay cut to already pitiful wages.

A World Socialist Web Site reporter spoke with striking workers outside the warehouse.

One explained, “We were told the day previous we were only going to get a pay increase of 35 pence an hour. People were actually weeping in the canteen and telling our managers that they cannot afford to pay their rent. It absolutely broke my heart when I saw this young girl breakdown and say to the manager, ‘I can’t afford to pay my rent,’ and management brought security. It’s disgusting.”

Asked about wider strike action at Amazon across the UK and globally he said, “If you can afford to do it, do it. We face not just a national problem. Amazon do in each country what they can legally get away with.”

Another worker said, “If you take the profit margin of how much money they made just last year alone, then they only offer their workers 35 pence? That’s terrible and I cannot stand that.”

Amazon worker protests outside the LCY2 warehouse in Tilbury, Essex [Photo: WSWS]

Amazon UK Services, which runs Amazon warehouses, had its entire corporation tax bill wiped out last year by a government tax break to encourage investment in the UK. Its revenue in the same period rose more than £1 billion to £6.1 billion, with profits of £204 million, up 59 percent on the year before. Accounts for its other UK operations are kept hidden. The cost of an Amazon Prime subscription in Britain has been lifted from £7.99 to £8.99, a 12.5 percent increase.

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