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Amazon warehouse workers stage first-ever strike in the UK

Amazon warehouse workers stage first-ever strike in the UK

Amazon packages move on a conveyer belt at a fulfillment center in England.

Nathan Stirk | Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers are on strike in Britain. The walkout marks the first formal industrial action in the country for the U.S. tech giant.

The 24-hour strike action began Wednesday a minute after midnight. Strikers are expected to picket outside the company’s site in Coventry in central England throughout the day.

At 6 a.m. London time, workers were pictured camping by a bonfire and waving union flags outside the Coventry site near Birmingham airport, known as BHX4.

Striking workers gather around a fire pit on a picket line at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfilment centre in Coventry, UK, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

One poster behind the workers had a slogan that said “Fight for £15,” and encouraged workers to join the GMB union. Another, which was bannered across a fence, read: “The wrong Amazon is burning.”

A striking worker attaches a banner that reads “The Wrong Amazon Is Burning” on a fence near a picket line at the Amazon fulfilment center in Coventry, U.K., on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.

Darren Staples | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The GMB Union, which represents the workers involved, said it expects 300 employees out of a total 1,000 at the plant to turn up to the walkout.

Workers are planning to hold a larger scale demonstration from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. London time.

Staff are unhappy with a pay increase of 50 pence (56 U.S. cents) per hour, equivalent to 5% and well below inflation. Amazon introduced the pay hike last summer. But warehouse workers say it fails to match the rising cost of living. They want the company to pay a minimum £15 an hour.

They also want better working conditions. Amazon workers have raised concerns about long working hours, high injury rates, and the unrelenting pace of work, as well as aggressive, tech-enhanced monitoring of employees.

A striking worker holds a “GMB Midlands” union flag as workers queue to pass a picket line at an Amazon fulfilment center in Coventry, U.K., on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.

Darren Staples | Bloomberg via Getty Images

A spokesperson for the tech giant told CNBC in a statement that the staff involved represent “only a fraction of 1% of our UK employees.” The spokesperson said that pay for Amazon’s U.K. warehouse workers has increased 29% since 2018, and pointed to a £500 one-time payment made out to staff to help with the cost-of-living crisis.

Wednesday’s action against the…

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