Amazon staff in Essex protest for second day as dispute over 35p pay rise spreads

Amazon workers at Tilbury in Essex have stopped working for the second day in a row as fury over the online retailer’s “insulting” pay rise offer spread to three other UK warehouses.

The GMB union said about 50 workers were gathered in the facility’s canteen on Friday in protest at the offer, which is an estimated 3% rise.

They said numbers have declined from the 700 protesting on Thursday because the company has been engaging in “divide and conquer” tactics by sending managers to meet and talk with smaller groups of workers.

Amazon confirmed these meetings were taking place and said it was in order to ensure that “all workers’ voices can be heard”.

It is understood that workers at the facility currently receive £11.10 an hour and are calling for an increase of £2, rather than the 35p that has been offered by the online retailer.

Amazon said staff were being offered £10.50 or £11.45 an hour depending on location and has defended its “competitive” pay package.

One worker from Tilbury said those in the warehouse had been anxious for some time about their pay because of increasing bills at home and had been expecting a “substantial increase” of at least £1 an hour.

“We have been there for them during the pandemic and made sure the country was connected. Amazon was one of the ways [Covid-19] tests were sent out to people and we have been there and made sure the country was running,” they said.

“For all this just getting 35p, it’s an insult. Its like 3% compared [with] skyrocket inflation and almost like getting a pay cut. I am getting stressed out and anxious just thinking about [high energy bills] and that 35p is not going to cover nothing.”

He said Amazon had told those who wished to protest by sitting in the canteen that they must clock off to do so – and hence they would not be paid for that time – leading to most people going back to work. However, he added, a number of colleagues were choosing to “go-slow” as a way to show their dissatisfaction with the pay offer.

Anger over the offer has spread to warehouses in Coventry, Bristol and Rugeley in Staffordshire.

At the Avonmouth facility in Bristol, which employs about 1,500 staff, 300 workers are understood to have stopped working again on Friday after walking out for two hours yesterday.

A worker told Bristol Live: “The fury and anger from the staff surely needs to put Amazon under the limelight again for the 6% real-life pay cut when you take into account the 9% inflation, which is still growing.”

A GMB regional organiser, Rebecca Mitchell, said that on Thursday about 500 workers at the Amazon warehouse at the Lyon’s Park centre in Coventry walked out over a proposed 50p pay increase.

About 100 workers were protesting outside the premises on Friday over the proposed increase, which Mitchell described as a “slap in the face”.

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

She added: “They have worked through Covid and seen no increase in pay. Their workload increased as people were in lockdown and ordering more things and they’ve had enough.”

A spokesperson for Amazon said: “Starting pay for Amazon employees will be increasing to a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 an 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.”