Hundreds of Amazon employees have stopped work at the online retailer’s warehouse in Tilbury in Essex in response to a pay rise of only 35p – about 3% – compared with inflation that is now forecast to hit 13% later this year.
The GMB union said about 700 of the roughly 3,500 workers at the site, which is one of Amazon’s largest in Europe, gathered in the facility’s canteen for a meeting as they tried to register a protest against the pay deal.
It is understood workers at the facility earn a minimum of £11.10 an hour, with those employed for at least three years on a minimum of £11.35. They are calling for a £2-an-hour raise but both groups are being offered the 35p deal.
One worker inside the warehouse posted a video in which they accused Amazon of treating them “like slaves”. “See people what’s going on,” the post on TikTok said. “Keep fight for us and our family.”
The action comes as Amazon faces increasing pressure to improve treatment of its warehouse workers, including from some shareholders.
The company reported its second quarterly loss in a row last month amid rising costs of fuel, energy and transport, but said it was trying to offset that by making its delivery network more efficient.
Steve Garelick, a regional organiser at GMB, said some workers had faced disciplinary action and a withdrawal of pay over the stoppage that began on Wednesday night and continued into Thursday.
“Amazon have removed pay from hundreds of workers at Tilbury Essex as well as scouring social media to see who is uploading videos. Instead of disciplinary procedures because of reputation, Amazon should sort their reputation with staff. Pay a decent increase, not 35p,” he tweeted.
Amazon denied there had been any disciplinary action.
Amazon does not recognise trade unions in its UK warehouses, or in most other countries around the world, but GMB said it would support members on site who had faced disciplinary procedures.
In April, Amazon workers in New York voted to form a union in efforts to secure longer breaks, paid time off for injured employees and an hourly wage of $30 (£24.70), up from a minimum of just over $18 an hour offered by the company.
The rising cost of living has led to a spate of industrial action across the UK, including by railway staff, BT workers and dockers as families struggle to cope with the cost of living crisis.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Workers across the economy are seeing the value of their pay packets fall. Soaring prices are adding to the longest pay squeeze for 200 years. Workers and their unions are fighting for decent pay rises across the economy.”
Amazon said: “Starting pay for Amazon employees will be increasing to a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location. This is for all full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary roles in the UK.
“In addition to this competitive pay, employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package that includes private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, subsidised meals and an employee discount among others, which combined are worth thousands annually, as well as a company pension plan.”
Pay at Amazon has risen from a minimum of £9.50 in 2018 to a current starting rate of £10.50 – well above the £9.50 legal minimum for those aged 23 and over and higher than the £10.10 an hour on offer in many major supermarkets. Heavy competition for warehouse workers during the pandemic led Amazon to offer hiring bonuses of up to £3,000 last autumn.
However, delivery drivers have complained of real-terms pay cuts since the peak season last year as shoppers have returned to high street stores after the lifting of Covid restrictions.
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