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British Amazon workers strike in first for the tech giant

Amazon workers in Britain took industrial action for the first time Wednesday in a dispute with the company over pay and conditions. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Amazon workers in Britain took industrial action for the first time Wednesday in a dispute with the company over pay and conditions. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Britain walked out Wednesday in a strike over pay and conditions, the first time the U.S. tech giant has been hit by industrial action in the country.

An estimated 300 of the 1,400 employees at the fulfillment center in the city of Coventry, about 90 miles north of London, are expected the join the action, according to the GMB Union which organized the strike.

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A news release on the union's website said the workers were angry over a $0.62-an-hour pay offer from the company and that if Amazon failed to come to the negotiating table, Wednesday's 24-hour walkout would be followed by further strikes.

The union is seeking a raise to $18.50 an hour, up from the current $12.90 rate, to bring pay in line with Amazon employees in the United States, and improved working conditions.

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''Amazon workers in Coventry are set to make history on Jan. 25. They've shown they're willing to put themselves on the line to fight for what's right,'' said the news release.

"But people working for one of the most valuable companies in the world shouldn't have to threaten strike action just to win a wage they can live on.

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"GMB urges Amazon U.K. bosses to give workers a proper pay rise and avoid industrial action altogether."

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According to the GMB, Amazon U.K. reported that it paid just $13.3 million in tax in 2021, despite recording a pre-tax profit of $251.3 million

However, the GMB is not recognized by Amazon and therefore is currently unable to negotiate with the company on behalf of its members.

Amazon, which has insisted its pay rates are "competitive," told CNBC in a statement that the staff taking part in the industrial action represented "only a fraction of 1% of our U.K. employees."

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It added that pay for Amazon's U.K. warehouse workers has increased 29% since 2018, and pointed to a $616 one-time payment it had made to help employees with the cost-of-living crisis.

In April workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York voted to establish the first-ever labor union in the company's history.

The Amazon strikes come amid a winter of industrial discontent in Britain not seen since the late 1970s with wave after wave of strikes in sectors ranging from the railways and the postal service to health care and the civil service.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced it would cut 18,000 jobs globally throughout the year, as CEO Andy Jassy cited uncertain economic conditions and a wave of rapid hirings in the past.

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