Amazon workers across the UK and Europe are due to stage demonstrations at its warehouses on Black Friday to protest against working conditions.
Hundreds of workers organised by the GMB will hold demonstrations at five Amazon sites in the UK, including Milton Keynes, Warrington, Peterborough, Swansea and Rugeley today, potentially spelling chaos for the retailer on what is poised to be its biggest day of the year.
The largest protest is set to take place in Rugeley near Birmingham, with hundreds expected to attend.
This comes after the GMB discovered in June, after making numerous Freedom of Information requests, that ambulances were called out 600 times to 14 different Amazon sites over the last three years, including 115 times to the Rugeley site.
One worker told the union: “I am pregnant and they put me to stand 10 hours without a chair. They are telling me to work hard even they know I am pregnant. I am feeling depressed when I am at work.”
Meanwhile workers in Italy and Spain have opted to strike for the full 24 hours against.
The GMB’s general secretary Tim Roache said the protests were designed force the ecommerce giant into a dialogue with them.
“We’re standing up and saying enough is enough,” he said.
“You’d think making the workplace safer so people aren’t carted out of the warehouse in an ambulance is in everyone’s interest, but Amazon seemingly have no will to get round the table with us.
“Working people and the communities Amazon operates in deserve better than this. That’s what we’re campaigning for.”
In response Amazon stated: “Amazon has created in the UK more than 25,000 good jobs with a minimum of £9.50 an hour and in the London area, £10.50 an hour on top of industry-leading benefits and skills training opportunities.
“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.”
Regarding the protests in Italy and Spain it added: “Our European Fulfillment Network is fully operational and we continue to focus on delivering for our customers. We are a fair and responsible employer.
“We believe in continuous improvement across our network and maintain an open and direct dialogue with our associates. We have invested over 27 billion EUR and created over 75,000 permanent jobs across Europe since 2010. These are good jobs with highly competitive pay, full benefits, and innovative training programs like Career Choice that pre-pays 95% of tuition for associates.”
Furthermore, in response to the pregnancy allegartions, Amazon said: “We are unable to comment on this case as we don’t have any information. Maternity leave at Amazon can start up to 4 weeks before the birth and includes up to 16 weeks of full pay.
“Once we know someone is pregnant we work closely with them and carry out a full risk assessment, and, if necessary, consult a doctor. If the employee’s health or that of the unborn child is at risk due to the work that they are employed to do by Amazon, we will vary the employee’s conditions to alleviate all risk, or find the employee a suitable alternative role. We will, as a last option, place the employee on full paid sick leave.”