Why is a UK MP joining the worldwide protest against Amazon?

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Today (19th July 2019), the Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, Jack Dromey, is to attend the GMB Amazon Demonstration day to pledge his support to UK workers who are protesting over poor working conditions.

Demonstrations are scheduled to take place outside Amazon fulfillment centres in Milton Keyes, Rugeley, Swansea, Peterborough, Warrington, Coventry and Doncaster.

Since 2015/16, more than 600 reports have been made from Amazon warehouses to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). There have been complaints over workers being forced to use plastic bottles to urinate in as they have no time for toilet breaks, as well as pregnant women being made to stand for hours on end, with some pregnant women being targeted for dismissal.

Mick Rix, national officer for the GMB union, told Sky News that conditions for UK employees of Amazon were “appalling” where people are “breaking bones, being knocked unconscious and being taken away in ambulances”.

This is in addition to other protests which have been taking place worldwide. Around 2,000 Amazon employees across the US and Europe also protested on Amazon Prime Day 2019, a 48-hour sale exclusively for Amazon Prime members.

Political figures in the US such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have also spoken out in support for Amazon workers.

In particular, these employees cited the rapid pace of work, strenuous production quotas, their wages and the lack of job security for temporary workers as the main reasons for the protests.

William Stolz, a picker at a warehouse in the Shakopee warehouse in Minnesota, told the BBC that he has to pick an item about every eight seconds, or 332 per hour, for a 10-hour day.

Similarly, in Germany, Amazon workers in seven different locations banded together under the slogan “No more discount on our incomes”, in reference to employees being paid less than a living wage.

A spokesperson for Amazon UK said that the company offered industry-leading pay starting at £9.50 per hour for employees and was the “employer of choice for thousands of people across the UK”.

In the first quarter of this year (2019), Amazon brought in net sales of $59.7 billion (£46.1 billion) and had a net income of $3.6 billion (£2.8 billion).

 

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