Online retail giant Amazon was Wednesday facing its first strike by UK workers, who are protesting over a pay rise deemed unacceptable in a cost-of-living crisis. A few hundred workers at a warehouse in Coventry, central England, have walked out over a pay increase worth five percent, less than half the current UK inflation rate.
It comes as tens of thousands of UK workers -- including nurses, teachers and railway staff -- are striking to try and secure pay increases that keep pace with sky-high inflation.
In Coventry, "the first ever Amazon workers in the UK to go on strike" were "taking on one of the world's biggest companies to fight for a decent standard of living", said Stuart Richards of the GMB union. "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," he added.
Workers were also protesting against other conditions which one GMB official, Amanda Gearing, described as "horrendous". She said the main issue for workers was target-led performance measures set by an algorithm.
"They're just having to work, work, work, they're not allowed to talk to people, it's difficult to take a toilet break," she claimed. Striking workers carried a banner that read: "We are not robots." Another said: "We are worth more."
Responding, Amazon said in a statement that "a tiny proportion of our workforce are involved" in the UK strike action. "We appreciate the great work our teams do throughout the year and we're proud to offer competitive pay."
Amazon said its minimum UK hourly wage had risen 29 percent since 2018. This was in part thanks to increases to the UK minimum wage set by the government.
Britain's annual inflation rate stands at 10.5 percent.(AFP)