Delivery! Amazon receives 'ASBO' from union protestors

A group of GMB members are staging protests over staff wages and working conditions at nine Amazon UK depots.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Given that the corporation tax avoidance story has barely died down yet, Amazon could really do without another dose of bad press. But GMB members are staging demonstrations today as they unhappy about Amazon's staff wages, which come in at £6.20 an hour (only a penny more than the minimum wage) and the system used to tell staff what they need to be doing each hour. 

Oh, and GMB is also claiming that the firm is denying staff their right to be represented by a union, or to engage in collective bargaining. So, to drive their point home, GMB workers are kicking up a fuss. A spokesperson told MT that no Amazon employees are involved in the demo. Surprise, surprise.

Workers have obviously got a bit miffed about their pay since discovering that the company pays next to no corporation tax in the UK despite balance sheet implied profits of £360m in the last financial year. (It is worth noting that there is nothing illegal about Amazon's UK tax arrangements - for more on the corporation tax scandal, by the way, click here.) Bosses at the nine depots, which include Slough, Swansea, Doncaster and Glenrothes, will be handed an ‘ASBO’ demanding that the company pays ‘normal levels’ of tax.

And the other issue is the working protocols. Some say that even once you’ve got a job at an Amazon warehouse, there is little to no guarantee of it being permanent, and even when you are employed, the warehouse managers watch workers like hawks. Apparently the average Amazon warehouse worker can walk between seven and 15 miles per day pushing trolleys around and loading vans, with just a 30 minute lunch break in the eight-hour shift.

National officer for the GMB, Paul Clarke, said: ‘Where Amazon differs from other retailers is its refusal to pay proper taxes and its treatment of workers. Our members at the company say the name Amazon has become a dirty word among friends and family. While everyone wants goods as cheap as possible, it’s now beginning to dawn on people the consequences of buying from tax-dodging companies who treat their staff so badly.’ 

Of course, Amazon points to the fact that it has invested £1bn in its UK infrastructure in recent years and that it is soon to create an additional 2,000 jobs. And in this economy! 

It trotted out a rebuttal, saying: ‘We are proud of providing our associates with a safe and positive working environment, which includes on-the-job training and opportunities for career profession.’

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