Coventry Amazon protest 11.22. Photo: Lenny Shail
Coventry Amazon protest 11.22. Photo: Lenny Shail

Adam Harmsworth, Coventry Socialist Party

Amazon workers in Coventry will be back on strike from 7-9 November. This is the workers’ response to another round of insulting pay rises. Warehouse workers previously on £11 an hour now get £11.80 an hour, rising to £12.30 in April. This is far off the £15 an hour GMB members at Coventry’s BHX4 site have demanded. Amazon has called its wages ‘competitive’. The only competitive part of it is the competition between workers’ gas bills and food bills – heating or eating!

This poverty pay is in real contrast to what Amazon workers have earned for their bosses. New figures show Amazon’s profits have tripled from $2.9 billion last year to $9 billion this year!

The strike is also about Amazon’s appalling work conditions. Bathrooms that take half a lunch break to walk to, overheating trailers, managers trained to intimidate; no wonder the workers say robots are treated better.

Anger at this nightmare brought BHX4’s workers together to fight for better. Over 1,000 workers at the site have now joined the GMB union. Hundreds make up every picket line in impressive displays of strength. A lot of working-class organisation has been built.

A few weeks ago, dozens of BHX4 workers suddenly booked an afternoon of annual leave to stage a walkout. This shows impatience at GMB’s inaction for some weeks. There have been no strikes since 5 August, giving Amazon three months to prepare to organise against GMB.

Amazon has a well-earned reputation as a vicious union-busting company. It spies on workers and lays out warehouses so meeting places are minimised and monitored. Breaking through that in BHX4 has been a success, but Amazon won’t let it last if it can break the union. GMB must throw everything at this fight.

The three upcoming strike days should be used to organise the active layer among the hundreds of members. GMB should call a mass democratic meeting on the picket line to decide the course of the strike and encourage members to get active. Also, GMB has made good attempts to leaflet more Amazon workplaces; this is an opportunity to try again and bring new activists along. The cost-of-living crisis has made Amazon workers’ lives more difficult, which makes it more likely workers will be convinced to join a union and to strike. Reaching out once again to other sites could help prevent BHX4 being isolated, and rebuild the campaign to defeat the Amazon monolith.