Amazon workers will go on formal strike for the first time in the UK

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

Nathan Stirk | Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers will go on strike, Britain’s GMB union said Friday, marking a first for the company’s employees in the U.K.

Employees at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse in central England voted Friday to go on strike, with the walkout likely to happen in January 2023. Roughly 1,000 people work at the Coventry facility.

The workers are unhappy with a pay increase of 3%, or 50 pence per hour, Amazon introduced in the summer, which they say fails to match the rising cost of living. They want Amazon to pay a minimum of £15 an hour.

Inflation has soared due to increased energy costs and supply chain disruptions, with consumer prices currently at a 41-year high. The Bank of England hiked interest rates on Thursday in an effort to slow inflation.

Though Amazon workers in the U.K. have previously stopped working in August and on Black Friday in November in protest over the summer pay increase, these were spontaneous, unsanctioned withdrawals of labor.

This will be the first legally mandated strike to take place in the U.K.

Amanda Gearing, senior organizer at GMB, said the Coventry workers “should be applauded for their grit and determination.”

“The fact that they are being forced to go on strike to win a decent rate of pay from one of the world’s most valuable companies should be a badge of shame for Amazon,” Gearing said in a statement.

“Amazon can afford to do better. It’s not too late to avoid strike action; get round the table with GMB to improve the pay and conditions of workers.”

Around 98% of the workers who turned out to vote opted to go on strike on a turnout of more than 63%.

In an emailed statement to CNBC, an Amazon spokesperson said: “We appreciate the great work our teams do throughout the year and we’re proud to offer competitive pay which starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location.”

“This represents a 29 per cent increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to Amazon employees since 2018. Employees are also offered comprehensive benefits that are worth thousands more — including private medical insurance, life assurance, subsidised meals and an employee discount, to name a few.”

“On top of this, we’re pleased to have announced that full-time, part-time and seasonal frontline employees will receive an additional one-time special payment of up to £500 as an extra thank you,” the spokesperson added.

Amazon has long been criticized for labor shortcomings, with the company often accused of poor working conditions in its warehouses and delivery operations. In April, staff at the company’s Staten Island warehouse in New York became the first group in the U.S. to vote in favor of joining a union.

The walkout will add to the wave of industrial action happening across the country. In recent weeks, upcoming strike actions have been announced by nurses, rail workers, postal workers, ambulance workers, airport staff, Border Force agents, highway workers, Eurostar staff, civil servants, bus drivers, firefighters, charity workers, meteorologists and offshore workers.

– CNBC’s Elliot Smith contributed to this report

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