Amazon workers strike. Photo: Brum SP
Amazon workers strike. Photo: Brum SP

Jonathan Osako and Nick Hart, Birmingham Socialist Party

Action at Amazon’s warehouse in Minworth near Birmingham stepped up a gear on 27-28 March, with a 48-hour strike by GMB members. Birmingham Socialist Party members went to visit all four picket shifts.

The strike followed a previous 24-hour walkout there in January, and over a year of strikes at Amazon in Coventry. Many members from there came to lend their support and experience on how to organise a picket line and speak to workers to convince them not to go into work and instead join the union.

The tactic was successful, with a long queue of workers at the GMB gazebo wanting to join the union and an even longer tailback of cars on the entry road! Union membership at the warehouse has now reached 300, up from 100 at the start of the first strike day.

Over 1,500 workers work in this newly built facility, most are immigrants who speak English as a second language. Despite the language barriers, most of the workers we spoke to are united in their grievances over pay. As one summed it up: “We keep on making Bezos richer and richer, and we keep getting poorer and poorer”.

As groceries and rent become increasingly expensive, workers struggle with their stagnant £12-an-hour pay cheque. This comes at a time when many workers have just received council tax bills from Birmingham’s Blairite council which are 10% higher than last year’s!

According to a union representative we spoke to, the company’s desperate union-busting efforts in Coventry now include putting up a QR code in the warehouse which brings you to a link to leave the union. Meanwhile at Birmingham, managers have been asking workers if they feel intimidated to join the strike. As one put it: “You’re the ones intimidating us!”

Workers also complained about managers being remote and unavailable. Workers often do not know who their manager is and struggle to find the person to make complaints to about problems in the workplace. One worker commented: “They’d be happier if we were all robots – and probably the robots would get treated better!” We urge the workers in Amazon to join the union, and to play an active role in recruiting others and building a strike committee to strengthen the union on site. We also encourage the trade union movement to assist the GMB in spreading unionisation to other Amazon locations around the UK to force the company to recognise the union, end oppressive management, and pay a living wage.