Protests are being staged at Amazon buildings in the UK, US, and Europe – on Black Friday.
The shopping sales day is among Amazon’s busiest all year.
An international coalition of unions, equality and environmental groups called “Make Amazon Pay” is staging a day of action, demanding concessions.
Meanwhile, the Extinction Rebellion environmental group has targeted Amazon depots in the UK, blocking entrances and access roads.
The group has blocked Amazon centres in Tilbury, Essex, and at Avonmouth near Bristol, according to reporters on the scene. It says it is also staging action in Manchester, Newcastle, and abroad in Germany and Netherlands.
In all, it says it has blockaded 15 centres – 13 of which are in the UK.
“Black Friday epitomises an obsession with over-consumption that is not consistent with a liveable planet,” the group said.
“Amazon and companies like it have capitalised on our desire for convenience and stoked rampant consumerism at the expense of the natural world.”
‘Make Amazon Pay’
The Make Amazon Pay coalition is not affiliated with Extinction Rebellion group, but also has environmental groups such as Greenpeace among its members.
“Amazon takes too much and gives back too little,” it claims – backed by trade unions, grassroots campaigns and non-profit-making organisations in individual countries.
In the UK, that includes the:
- GMB Union
- Trades Union Congress
- War on Want
- International Transport Workers’ Federation
- Labour Behind the Label
Many employees will be working on the day, but campaign groups which include Amazon workers are staging protests at Amazon buildings in Coalville, Leicestershire, Coventry, Peterborough and at its London headquarters.
But strikes are being encouraged elsewhere.
In Germany, for example, the union Verdi called on employees at major shipping centres to strike, beginning on Wednesday night. And in France, major union CGT is also calling for workers to down tools.
Worldwide, nearly 50 organisations have signed up to a list of “common demands”, published by the Make Amazon Pay coalition, which include:
- raising warehouse workers’ pay and adding hazard pay and peak time increments
- halting worker “surveillance” and strict productivity targets
- extending sick leave and improving Covid-19 tracking and reporting
- ending casual employment status and “union-busting” activities
- paying taxes without using loopholes or tax havens
Owen Espley, from the War on Want campaign group, said: “Amazon’s growing power is a threat to communities and workers around the world.
“Amazon is abusing its dominance across online retail, cloud services, and logistics, to create unfair competition that is driving down standards for everyone.
“Amazon workers face unsafe conditions, constant surveillance and are treated like robots.
“It’s time for Amazon to pay fair wages, fair taxes, and for its impact on the planet.”
“This company is a pandemic profiteer can afford to do better,” said Mick Rix, from the GMB Union. “It’s time for Amazon sit down with their workers’ union GMB and make Amazon a great, safe place to work. ”
Amazon reported a tripling of profits earlier this year, attributed to its success during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company has also been accused of taking an anti-union stance across its operations, particularly in the US.
A landmark push to unionise a workplace in Bessemer, Alabama, failed earlier this year but was examined by the US regulator over allegations the company had put pressure on employees during the vote.
Amazon issued a prepared statement in advance of the protests about the wider Make Amazon Pay movement.
“These groups represent a variety of interests, and while we are not perfect in any area, if you objectively look at what Amazon is doing in each one of these areas you’ll see that we do take our role and our impact very seriously,” it said.
“We are inventing and investing significantly in all these areas, playing a significant role in addressing climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, continuing to offer competitive wages and great benefits, and inventing new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy in our operations network, to name just a few.”