Amazon workers in Coventry begin first of two three-day strikes

Workers gather at picket line as part of demand for pay increase from £11 to £15 an hour

Workers at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse have begun a fresh round of strike action in a dispute about pay during the cost of living crisis.

GMB union members are planning three days of strikes at the huge Coventry centre, known as BHX4, from Sunday 16 to Tuesday 18 April, to be followed by three further days, from 21 to 23 April.

Workers will have been on strike for a total of 14 days by the end of April.

Workers gathered at a picket line for two hours from 6.30am on Sunday morning, and will repeat this on Sunday afternoon. They are demanding a pay increase to £15 an hour, from the current level of £11 an hour.

It is the latest round of action for workers in Coventry, who began their protest in January, in what was the first industrial action ever taken against Amazon in the UK.

The GMB claims to have signed up hundreds of new members in the workforce in Coventry and at other Amazon sites across the country since the beginning of the dispute. More than 600 workers are now expected to take part in the two three-day stoppages; previously, 300 staff were involved.

The union has said it believes it is getting closer to the 50% membership level that would allow it to apply for statutory recognition.

Amazon workers have received two 50p increases to their hourly pay since the dispute first began in Coventry, taking their earnings to £11 an hour. The first pay increase came after staff held an informal walkout last summer, and they were awarded a subsequent 50p in recent weeks. They have also received a one-off £500 cost of living payment.

However, workers believe the wage increases do not recognise the fact that they worked through the pandemic, nor offer them sufficient support in the face of soaring food and energy costs.

“GMB members are worth more; they will not accept a pay rise of pennies from one of the world’s wealthiest corporations,” said Amanda Gearing, GMB senior organiser. “Three months ago, Amazon told our members there was no money left for pay rises, yet through pressure, campaigning and strike action, we’ve forced Amazon to sit up and take notice.”

The union has previously said the current pay rises amounted only to an average of between 1.8% and 2.5%, and described this as an “insult”.

The GMB is currently looking to test the appetite for strike action among Amazon workers at another five UK distribution centres.

An Amazon spokesperson said: “We regularly review our pay to ensure we offer competitive wages, and recently announced another increase for our UK teams. Over the past seven months, our minimum pay has risen by 10%, and by more than 37% since 2018.”

Amazon, which does not voluntarily recognise or negotiate with unions, has previously said the Coventry dispute involves under 1% of its total UK workforce.


Joanna Partridge

The GuardianTramp

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