Workers from Amazon’s Coventry distribution centre, who are members of the GMB Union and have walked out today [Wednesday 25 January] as part of industrial action, have claimed robots in the warehouse “are treated better than us”.
The GMB Union has stressed that staff are facing high-pressure working conditions and must meet targets of sorting hundreds of items an hour. Amazon workers Darren Westwood and Garfield Hilton told the BBC how even a trip to the toilet can lead to questions by managers.
“The thing with stopping work is that they want to know why. So if the time is beyond a couple of minutes they can see it on the system,” explained Hilton.
The ecommerce giant has responded by stating it has a system “that recognises great performance”. A spokesman said it “also encourages coaching to help employees improve if they are not meeting their performance goals”.
Workers at the Coventry site had previously staged an informal stoppage, when they were told they would receive a pay rise of 50p an hour taking the basic rate to £10.50.
But union members want to be paid £15 an hour, with workers calling the 50p offer “a smack in the mouth”.
Westwood, who says he has been at Amazon for three and a half years, told Reuters that the latest pay rise was not enough, with record inflation which hit a 41-year high of 11.1% at one point last year.
He said: “None of us want to strike. We’d all rather be in the warmth inside than be drinking tea out here in the cold, but it’s come to that point now where the cost of living has just gone crazy.”
The GMB Union has also warned that Coventry might only be the start of industrial action. It suggested that there are workers in other centres that feel the same.