- Amazon workers across Europe plan to stage protests on Black Friday in anger at the conditions inside Amazon’s warehouses.
- Protests will take the form of demonstrations in the UK, while workers in Spain and Italy are planning a 24-hour strike.
- A spokesman for the British trade union GMB told Business Insider the protesters wanted to raise awareness and get Amazon to the table to talk about worker safety.
Amazon warehouse workers are planning to voice their anger at working conditions in coordinated protests across Europe on Black Friday.
The British trade union GMB is working with hundreds of employees to stage demonstrations outside five fulfillment centres on Friday, while workers in Spain and Italy are planning a 24-hour strike.
In the UK, a mixture of off-shift Amazon workers and GMB members plan to demonstrate outside Amazon warehouses waving banners and handing out leaflets, a GMB spokesman told Business Insider.
The biggest protest is set to take place at Rugeley, near Birmingham, with upward of 100 people expected to attend. After demonstrating at the warehouse, they plan to march to a rally at the Lea Hall Miners’ Club, where the shadow work and pensions minister, Jack Dromey, is set to speak.
The GMB spokesman said protesters were looking to raise awareness rather than disrupt Black Friday sales. “All we want is to get Amazon around the table,” he said.
GMB’s general secretary, Tim Roache, said in a statement that working conditions at Amazon were “frankly inhuman.” He added: “They are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious, and being taken away in ambulances.”
Using a series of Freedom of Information requests, the GMB discovered in June that ambulances were called out 600 times to 14 Amazon warehouses over the past three years.
At the Rugeley site, ambulances were called out 115 times over that period for electric shocks, bleeding, chest pains, and major trauma. Three times the ambulances were called out for “pregnancy/maternity.”
“At a similar sized supermarket distribution warehouse a few miles away, there were just eight call outs during the same period,” the GMB found.
‘It is an awful place to work’
Ahead of the protest on Friday, the GMB collected statements from warehouse employees.
“I am pregnant and they put me to stand 10 hours without a chair,” one said, adding: “They are telling me to work hard even they know I am pregnant. I am feeling depressed when I am at work.”
When contacted by Business Insider about this statement, a spokesman for Amazon said that the company was “unable to comment on this case as we don’t have any information” but that maternity leave at Amazon could start up to four weeks before the child’s birth and included up to 16 weeks of full pay.
Another added: “It is an awful place to work, can’t breath or voice an opinion, feel like a trapped animal with lack of support and respect.”
Amazon’s working conditions have come under fire before, notably from US Sen. Bernie Sanders, who campaigned to make CEO Jeff Bezos raise Amazon’s minimum wage and said he would launch an investigation into what he called “unsafe working conditions.”
Amazon raised its minimum wage to $US15 an hour in October, but it has dismissed horror stories from its warehouses as a “myth.”
In response to the protest, Amazon issued the following statement to Business Insider:
“All of our sites are safe places to work and reports to the contrary are simply wrong. According to the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive, Amazon has over 40% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing companies in the UK. We encourage everyone to compare our pay, benefits, and working conditions to others and come see for yourself on one of the public tours we offer every day at our centres across the UK.”
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