Amazon workers set for unprecedented UK strike on Wednesday

Hundreds of Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center workers in the UK plan to strike on Wednesday as part of unprecedented industrial action by the company’s British employees.

Members of the GMB Union working at the retailer’s Coventry depot held a strike ballot in December after Amazon offered a 50 pence-per-hour increase in pay. About 98% of workers who voted were in favor of striking.

“After six months of ignoring all requests to listen to workers’ concerns, GMB urges Amazon UK bosses to do the right thing and give workers a proper pay rise,” GMB senior organizer Stuart Richards said in a statement.

Wednesday’s strike follows a series of unofficial walkouts and slowdowns at warehouses across the UK last year after the pay raise was announced.

The strike won’t directly affect customers, and Amazon is “proud” of the wages it offers, the company said earlier in January. It said its packages start at a minimum of £10.50 ($12.75) to £11.45 per hour, depending on location. The UK’s national living wage, for adults 23 years old and above, will rise to £10.42 in April from £9.50.

While the UK strike is significant by way of being the first of its kind in the country for Amazon, it’s only one of many significant challenges facing the Seattle-based e-commerce giant. Earlier this month it said it plans to eliminate more than 18,000 jobs, representing about 1% of total employees, in the biggest round of layoffs in its history. 

The company is adjusting to a dramatic slowdown in online shopping after consumers resumed their pre-pandemic retail habits, and it’s delayed warehouse openings and halted hiring in its retail group. In the UK, it’s previously said it plans to shut down three of its warehouses this year in an operation that will impact about 1,200 employees. – BLOOMBERG