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Warehouse Workers Say They’ll Strike Again: ‘We’ve Forced Amazon to Sit Up and Take Notice’

Amazon workers in the U.K. are plotting another set of strikes next month in a bid to convince the e-commerce giant to raise wages.

According to GMB, a U.K. trade union with more than 500,000 members, more than 560 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Coventry plan to strike on April 16-18 and April 21-23.

The Coventry warehouse, known as BHX4, has been the focal point of three months of industrial action by GMB after the trade union staged the first-ever U.K. Amazon strike in January. The union followed that up with seven more days of work stoppages in February and March. By the end of April, BHX4 workers will dedicated 14 days to striking for better working conditions.

But now, GMB hopes to gain greater support for more work stoppages as it calls for Amazon to pay 15 pounds ($18.56) per hour in a raise that would help workers survive during heady inflation.

“Industrial action is growing and this could fast become a summer of strike chaos [for] Amazon,” said Amanda Gearing, GMB senior organizer, in a statement. “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 walkouts will take place as hundreds of GMB members cast ballots to decide on industrial action at five fulfillment centers across England’s Midlands region. The ballots, which open Friday and run for several weeks, will ask GMB members if they are willing to strike over a 50-pence pay rise.

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Votes will be held at warehouses in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire; Coalville, Leicestershire; Kegworth, Leicestershire; Rugeley, Staffordshire; and Rugby, Warwickshire.

If 50 percent or more vote in favor of action, formal strike ballots would be the next step.

In August last year, Amazon increased hourly starting pay in the U.K. by 35 to 50 pence (43 to 62 cents) based on location, to a new minimum of 10.50 pounds to 11.45 pounds ($12.95 to $14.12).

After the strikes, Amazon announced new wage increases this month that would bump the minimum to 11 pounds and 12 pounds ($13.60 to $14.85). But the union described this as “an insult,” saying it amounts to an average increase between 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent from the prior range.

“Over the past seven months, our minimum pay has risen by 10 percent and by more than 37 percent since 2018. We also work hard to provide great benefits, a positive work environment and excellent career opportunities,” an Amazon spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “These are just some of the reasons people want to come and work at Amazon, whether it’s their first job, a seasonal role or an opportunity for them to advance their career.”

The hikes also come as the national living wage rises for employees older than 23, climbing by 9.7 percent to 10.42 pounds ($12.89) per hour. That increase is only a hair above the U.K.’s consumer prices index plus housing (CPIH), which shot up 9.2 percent in February as the country joins the U.S. and many others fighting off inflation.

Amazon doesn’t recognize the GMB’s authority, meaning it won’t negotiate with the trade union. But this late push may force the company to change its tune.

If the union manages to recruit more than half the workforce across the five warehouses, it says it will apply to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) for statutory recognition. The GMB has been recruiting on average 30 people per day to the union on strike days, the union told BBC.

“Six further days of strike action in Coventry is a clear statement from our members they are worth more; they will not accept a pay rise of pennies from one of the world’s wealthiest corporations,” Gearing said in a statement. “With workers at five further sites starting ballots for industrial action this month, it’s clear Amazon need to urgently get serious and talk pay with GMB now.”

The U.K. strikes will occur as the e-commerce giant prepares to cut another 9,000 jobs, on top of the 18,000 layoffs that Amazon already announced in January. The company said the cuts would affect cloud computing and advertising divisions, both of which have been some of Amazon’s best profit drivers.

“Probably the No. 1 priority that I spent time with the team on is reducing our cost to serve in our operations network,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said in the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call in February.

Some of the cost cuts will affect the U.K., particularly in the form of industrial real estate, where Amazon is planning to close three of its 30 fulfillment centers. The company expects to open two new warehouses in England over the next three years, and the 1,200 employees affected by the three warehouse closures have the option to relocate to facilities nearby.