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Jurist Amazon UK warehouse workers strike for first time over wages and cost of living

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Nov 11, 2016
Workers at an Amazon UK warehouse Wednesday went on strike in protest of low wages, poor working conditions and the soaring cost of living. The collective action represents the first time Amazon warehouse workers have gone on strike in the UK.

Members of the GMB union voted to stage a one-day walk off from the Coventry fulfilment centre at which they work, which was sparked by Amazon’s recent pay raise offer of just 50 pence (equal to 56 US cents) per hour. GMB has pushed for a minimum wage of £15 per hour, which they argue is level with American wages. The fulfilment centre’s current minimum wage stands at £10.50 per hour.

More broadly, the Amazon strike comes amidst reports of poor working conditions at the tech giant as well as a wider backdrop of rising inflation and cost of living expenses. GMB members at the strike told The Guardian of the physically strenuous tasks they perform at their job that are constantly monitored and measured against stringent performance targets. They also commented on concerns that the 50 pence raise, which falls well below the rate of inflation, is unable to protect families against soaring costs of living.

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC the staff involved represents “only a fraction of 1%” of the company’s UK workers, and defended Amazon’s fulfilment centre wages as being above the country’s minimum wage.

While Amazon has played down the strike, the workers’ action stands as an example of rising dissatisfaction and industrial unrest in the country with the direction of living standards, as consumer prices rose 10.5% in the past year and average UK wages dropped to 2006 levels with inflation taken into account.

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