Amazon employees are expected to protest outside the firm’s warehouses in the UK in a dispute over workers’ rights.

The GMB union told the BBC that it coincides with the start of a ballot in a “bid to force Amazon to recognise a union for the first time” in the country. A GMB spokesman also mentioned that the ballot’s results, which were expected on 15 July, could mean Amazon would be required to negotiate pay and conditions with them.

UK Amazon
Image Source Reuters

GMB Filed Legal Proceedings against Amazon

The US online retailer, which was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, stated that their employees “always have” the option to join a union. However, in April, GMB initiated legal action against the company. The GMB union is accusing Amazon of unfair labour practices, alleging the company pressured staff to give up their union memberships. This legal action called an Inducement Claim, accuses Amazon of pressuring workers to give up their right to join a union and negotiate together for better pay, hours, and benefits.

This legal action follows the GMB’s successful vote to represent Amazon workers at a fulfilment centre. If the GMB’s claim is upheld, it would be the first time a union has gained recognition to bargain for Amazon workers on pay, hours, and holidays outside the United States.

UK Amazon
Image Source GMB

The claims include that Amazon has:

  • Pressured staff to leave the union. Company bosses have erected QR codes in Amazon fulfilment centres, which generate an email to the union’s membership department requesting that membership be cancelled.
  • Forced workers to attend hour-long anti-union seminars. Led by senior company managers, these briefings forced workers to listen to anti-union messages during work time.
  • Displayed anti-union messages throughout Amazon workplaces, including on billboards and screens.
  • Bullied and intimidated union representatives amongst Amazon staff.

GMB Prepares for Potential Pushback from Amazon Ahead of Vote

The GMB union’s fight to represent Amazon workers in Coventry nears its climax. After a decade-long struggle, a vote is scheduled for Monday where 3,000 workers will decide on GMB representation. This hard-won ballot follows an 18-month campaign that included strikes and protests and comes after the government granted union representatives access to the site. To amplify their message, the GMB will also hold protests at the firm’s sites in Warrington, Carlisle and Dartford, Kent, and outside their headquarters in London.

UK Amazon
Image Source PA Media

Tensions Rise Between Amazon and GMB Over Union Allegations

Amanda Gearing, GMB Senior Organiser, said:

“This is a company out of control. Amazon is a multi-billion-pound corporation doing everything in its power to stop minimum-wage workers from forming a union. Their latest American-style anti-union campaign proves they will stop at nothing to beat the rules that every other employer in the UK is expected to follow. It’s desperate measures and goes someway to show why Amazon workers as so determined to win the union recognition they deserve”.

A representative for Amazon stated to BBC, “Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have.”

The representative also noted that Amazon “regularly reviews” pay, adding: “Our minimum starting pay has increased to £12.30 and £13 per hour depending on location— a 20% increase over two years and 50% since 2018.

“We also work hard to provide great benefits, a positive work environment, and excellent career opportunities,” they added.

Image Source GMB

The ongoing dispute between Amazon and GMB highlights the tension between the company’s stance on unionisation and the union’s allegations of coercion. While Amazon asserts that it offers competitive pay, benefits, and the freedom for employees to join unions, GMB’s legal action underscores the union’s concerns about potential anti-union activities. This conflict reflects broader challenges in balancing corporate policies with workers’ rights in today’s labour landscape.

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