Amazon faces Black Friday protests, strikes in 40 countries

Thousands of Amazon warehouse workers in nearly 40 countries plan to participate in protests and walkouts to coincide with Black Friday sales, one of the hottest days of the year for online shopping.

Workers across the US, UK, India, Japan, Australia, South Africa and Europe are calling for better wages and working conditions as the cost of living crisis deepens in a campaign called ‘Pay Amazon’. The campaign is coordinated by an international coalition of trade unions with support from environmental and civil society groups.

“It’s time for the tech giant to immediately stop its horrible, dangerous practices, respect the law and negotiate with workers who want to improve their jobs,” said Kristi Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, one of the organizers of the campaign.

Tensions with workers have been a long-standing issue at the e-commerce giant, which has faced complaints about unfair labor practices at some facilities, as well as employee activism and union action. Earlier this year, warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York voted to join a fledgling union.

“While we are by no means perfect, if you look objectively at what Amazon is doing on these important issues, you will see that we take our role and impact very seriously,” said Amazon spokesman David Nieberg.

He noted the company’s goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and “continues to offer competitive wages and great benefits, and innovate new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy.”

Unions in France and Germany – CGT and Ver.di – are leading the latest collective action with coordinated strikes at 18 key warehouses aimed at disrupting shipments to key European markets.

Monika di Silvestre, head of Ver.di’s Amazon committee in Germany, said she was particularly concerned about workers’ productivity being closely monitored by computers, algorithms that set targets, such as the number of packages they need to process per hour.

“Employees are under a lot of pressure with these algorithms,” he said. “It does not differentiate between workers, whether they are elderly or have reduced mobility. “Employees stay awake at night thinking only about their productivity statistics.”

He called on European politicians to strengthen labor rights across the bloc. “We have no right to strike around Europe – at the European level,” he said.

In England, workers affiliated with the GMB union planned to hold protests outside several warehouses, including in Coventry.

“Amazon workers in Coventry are overworked, underpaid and have had enough,” GMB senior organizer Amanda Gearing said, adding that “hundreds” of them had joined to demand a pay rise from £10.50 to £15 an hour. they will gather.

Any worker who quits during the shift could lose the second half of the £500 bonus Amazon announced last month for warehouse workers in the UK. The last payment is related to the “unauthorized absence” of employees between November 22 and December 24. GMB said linking payments to attendance could be interpreted as an illegal incentive not to strike.

In the United States, protests and rallies will be held in more than 10 cities and in front of the apartment building on New York’s 5th Avenue, where Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has a condo. While members of the newly formed trade union in Japan are protesting outside the company’s national headquarters in Tokyo, numerous rallies are also planned in India. Garment workers in Amazon’s supply chain in Bangladesh will march in Dhaka and Chittagong.

Some demonstrations will focus on Amazon’s environmental and social footprint, such as when people in Ireland will gather outside the company’s Dublin offices to oppose two new data centers planned in the city. In South Africa, protesters will gather near Amazon’s new offices in Cape Town, which are being developed on land considered sacred by local people.

Some unions have expressed concern about the current economic climate amid Amazon’s warning that the peak Christmas season may not be as busy as usual. The company’s decision to cut 10,000 jobs will also make wage negotiations more difficult.

Laurent Cretin, a representative of the CFE-CGC trade union in France, said the company would have 880 workers at a warehouse in Chalon-sur-Saône this Christmas, up from 1,000 before covid, which he attributed to tightening consumer spending and transfers. action to robotic warehouses.

“The projections are not great, we’re not sure we’ll be as good as last year, which saw post-covid growth,” he said.

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