Home » Campaigning begins ahead of historic union recognition vote by British Amazon workers – UPI.com

Campaigning begins ahead of historic union recognition vote by British Amazon workers – UPI.com

Campaigning begins ahead of historic union recognition vote by British Amazon workers – UPI.com

Officials of Britain's third largest union arrived on-site at one of Amazon's main fulfilment centers in Coventry on Wednesday ahead of a landmark ballot of 3,000 workers on whether they want a union to represent them collectively when it comes to bargaining over pay and conditions. Photo courtesy GMB union. Photo courtesy GMB union.

Officials of Britain’s third largest union arrived on-site at one of Amazon’s main fulfilment centers in Coventry on Wednesday ahead of a landmark ballot of 3,000 workers on whether they want a union to represent them collectively when it comes to bargaining over pay and conditions. Photo courtesy GMB union. Photo courtesy GMB union.

June 19 (UPI) — Workers at one of Amazon‘s main fulfillment centers in Britain on Wednesday launched a process aiming to get the online retail giant to recognize a union in the country for the first time.

Officials of Britain’s third largest union arrived at the site in Coventry ahead of a ballot of 3,000 workers on whether they want a union to represent them collectively when it comes to bargaining over pay and conditions.

Hailing the ballot, which gets underway in two weeks after a government arbitration panel gave the go-ahead over the objections of Amazon, the GMB union said in a post on X that “Amazon workers, not Amazon bosses, will now decide on union recognition.”

If at least 40% of workers at the plant vote in favor, Amazon will be forced to recognize a union for the first time in Britain and, according to GMB, anywhere in Europe, meaning the online giant will have to negotiate with its workforce via the union.

GMB Senior Organizer Amanda Gearing called the vote a “historic moment” in a news release as she said Amazon was “investing huge energy to resist efforts by working-class people in Coventry to fight for a better life.”

“But right here Coventry Amazon workers have rejected Amazon’s attempts to smash their union,” said Gearing.

“Instead, they’ve stood up to be counted and demanded the chance to vote on union recognition.”

Amazon said relations with its employees were a top priority and stressed that employees had always been free to join a union.

“Across Amazon, we place enormous value on having daily conversations and engagement with our employees,” the company said. “It’s a strong part of our work culture. We value that direct relationship and so do our employees.”

The company added it had raised its minimum pay rate in April to between $15.66 and $16.55 an hour, according to the location.

GMB has been pushing for a rise to at least $19 an hour and improved working conditions.

The legal minimum wage for workers 21 and older in Britain rose to $14.69 as of April 1.

“Campaigning” in the run-up to the secret ballot, which is being overseen by the government’s Central Arbitration Committee, will see both sides lobby the workers at meetings to persuade them one way or the other.

The fight over union recognition at the Coventry plant, 90 miles northwest of London, is the culmination of a lengthy GMB-Amazon battle going back at least 18 months with workers launching strike action over pay in January 2023, the first time the U.S. tech giant had been hit by industrial action in the country.

That was followed by two more rounds of strikes in April 2023, a November strike to coincide with Black Friday, a three-day Valentine’s Day strike in February and a two-day walkout in March.

Wednesday’s development in Britain comes one day after Amazon Labor Union members in the United States voted to affiliate with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The vote passed with 98.3% of ALU members in favor of chartering ALU-International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1, expanding its representation from 5,500 Amazon warehouse workers at the JFK8 facility on Staten Island to include all Amazon warehouse workers across New York’s four other boroughs.