Amazon workers to protest on Black Friday

  22 November 2018    Read: 1140
Amazon workers to protest on Black Friday

Amazon warehouse workers are going to voice their anger at working conditions in coordinated protests across Europe on Black Friday.

British trade union GMB is working with hundreds of staff to stage demonstrations outside five fulfilment centres on Friday, while workers in Spain and Italy are planning a 24-hour strike.

In the UK, a mixture of off-shift Amazon workers and GMB members will demonstrate outside Amazon warehouses waving banners and handing out leaflets, a GMB spokesman told Business Insider.

The biggest protest will take place at Rugeley, near Birmingham, with upwards of 100 people expected to attend. After demonstrating at the warehouse, they will march to a rally at the Lea Hall Miners' Club, where shadow work and pensions minister, Jack Dromey, will speak.

The GMB spokesman said protestors are looking to raise awareness rather than disrupt Black Friday sales. "All we want is to get Amazon around the table," he said.

GMB General Secretary Tim Roache said in a statement that working conditions at Amazon are "frankly inhuman." He added: "They are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious and being taken away in ambulances."

Using a series of Freedom of Information requests, the GMB discovered in June that ambulances were called out 600 times to 14 Amazon warehouses over the past three years.

At the Rugeley site, ambulances were called out 115 times over that period for electric shocks, bleeding, chest pains, and major trauma. Three times the ambulances were called out for "pregnancy/maternity."

"At a similar sized supermarket distribution warehouse a few miles away, there were just eight call outs during the same period," the GMB found.

"It is an awful place to work"

Ahead of the protest on Friday, the GMB collected statements from members who work at the warehouses.

"I am pregnant and they put me to stand 10 hours without a chair … They are telling me to work hard even [sic] they know I am pregnant. I am feeling depressed when I am at work," said one.

When contacted by Business Insider about this statement, a spokesman for Amazon said "We are unable to comment on this case as we don't have any information," but said that maternity leave at Amazon can start up to four weeks before the birth and includes up to 16 weeks of full pay.

Another added: "It is an awful place to work, can't breath or voice an opinion, [sic] feel like a trapped animal with lack of support and respect."

Amazon's working conditions have come under fire before, notably from US Senator Bernie Sanders who campaigned to make CEO Jeff Bezos raise Amazon's minimum wage and said he would launch an investigation into "unsafe working conditions."

Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in October, but it has refuted horror stories from its warehouses as a "myth."

In response to the protest, Amazon issued the following statement to Business Insider:

"All of our sites are safe places to work and reports to the contrary are simply wrong. According to the UK Government's Health and Safety Executive, Amazon has over 40% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing companies in the UK. We encourage everyone to compare our pay, benefits, and working conditions to others and come see for yourself on one of the public tours we offer every day at our centers across the UK."

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