Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) employees who walked out of work on January 25 over a dispute with the tech giant have reportedly been marked ‘no show’ by the company, contrary to the workers’ rights on what was a properly mandated industrial action.
The 24-hour walkout involved 350 employees of Amazon at a Coventry warehouse who are represented by GMB Union. It was the first-ever UK strike for Amazon, as workers demand a pay increase that could match the sharply rising cost of living, and better working conditions.
Amazon Coventry’s workers received a pay increase of £0.50 (US$0.56) per hour or equivalent to 5% in the summer, but they say that the hike isn’t enough to cover the cost of living. The most recent CPI print for the UK was 9.2%, well above the increase. The workers are asking for a 50% hike or a minimum of £15 an hour.
The workers have also long complained about severe conditions that involve long working hours, and constant and aggressive monitoring — workers say that their toilet breaks are timed and that they’re reprimanded for even just a few minutes of idle time. One worker has also said that the company’s robots are treated better.
The UK is Amazon’s third largest market after the US and Germany. The strike at the Coventry site, which involved more than a third of the staff, is seen as a significant step towards the unions’ mission to create an international-level workers’ movement. It also took place the same week that workers from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, and Spain came together to plan the next demonstrations.
But workers at the Coventry site are now fearing that the demonstration, if marked as a “no show” or effectively an unauthorized absence, could mean that they would be fined, or could face a gross misconduct charge.
GMB is seeking clarity from Amazon on the matter. They say that they hope that it was an error, adding that the workers were notified through the staff app.
“We hope and believe this is just an error on Amazon’s part, rather than an attempt to intimidate workers taking legal industrial action,” said GMB senior organizer Stuart Richards. “But Amazon need to sort it out and quick. Coventry workers did an incredibly brave thing taking on one of the world’s biggest companies.”
“Now it feels like they’re being bullied,” he added.
“If these reports are true, Amazon is acting unlawfully. Amazon needs to make this right and quick,” Rosa Curling, Director of Legal Group Foxglove, said in GMB’s statement.
“They need to state loud and clear they respect the rights of Amazon workers in the UK to take legal strike action and give cast-iron assurances that no worker who took part in Wednesday’s lawful industrial action will face any kind of disciplinary action as a result.”
As of this writing, Amazon has yet to comment on the matter.
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