Amazon workers walk out in UK over wages

Several hundred workers at an Amazon warehouse in Tilbury, east London, walked off Wednesday night and Thursday to get better wages in the face of soaring inflation in the country, according to the GMB union.

Without being officially a strike, this movement aims to demand a wage increase of 2 pounds sterling (more than 2.35 euros) per hour, much more than the 35 pence increase proposed by the company, according to the union.

About 400 employees out of 3,500 stopped working in the night shift on Wednesday evening, and as many during the day on Thursday, a GMB spokeswoman told AFP, assuring that the movement could continue and even expand to other warehouses.

The Bank of England said Thursday that it expected to see inflation soar to more than 13% in October, a record since the end of 1980, after having already reached 9.4% over one year in June.

“Amazon is one of the most profitable businesses on the planet. With household costs soaring, the least they can do is pay a living wage,” said Steve Garelick, a regional manager at GMB.

In a press release, he denounced the company’s refusal “to work with the unions” and its “repeated use of short contracts”.

The e-commerce giant announced at the end of July more than 121 billion dollars in turnover in the second quarter, up 7%, despite an unfavorable comparison with last year and a difficult economic context.

According to the offer made by Amazon in the United Kingdom, “the starting salary of employees will increase to a minimum of between 10.50 and 11.45 pounds (12.45 to 13.57 euros) per hour”, argued a spokesperson for the company in a statement sent to AFP.

“In addition to this competitive pay, employees benefit from a complete set of advantages”, he added, citing in particular a private medical insurance, subsidized meals or even a reduction on the use of the services of Amazon.

The discontent swells in the country in the face of inflation which is eating away at purchasing power and the announcements of strikes are multiplying in many sectors.

Some 40,000 British railway workers went on strike for wages and jobs at the end of July, a month after their biggest strike in 30 years, and walkouts are planned throughout the summer.

Strikes have also taken place among lawyers, postal workers, within the telecom operator BT, and other movements are envisaged, particularly in health or education.

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