By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2847

Amazon strikers in Coventry convince workmates not to go in

The GMB union members struck alongside over half a million others on Wednesday
Issue 2847
A group of Amazon strikers in Coventry try to turn away cars, they wear orange high vis jackets

Amazon strikers picket in Coventry (Picture: Richard Millner)

Amazon workers in Coventry stood strong on picket lines on Wednesday for their third day of a week-long strike. 

A group of around 50 strikers at the BHX4 fulfilment centre gathered at the side of the road to convince workers driving in to turn around. Striker Anna said, “We want to talk to people. We want them to know about the union and about their rights.”

The police tried to stop workers from stepping into the road and threatened strikers with arrest for obstructing the highway. One worker said, “The police are arrogant, and we aren’t happy with them. They see us as criminals, but we’re just trying to let people know what’s going on. You’d think Amazon paid the police.”   

A worker who was about to walk into the centre was convinced to turn around and strike after a conversation with one of the strikers. She said she had already been on strike the day before but couldn’t afford to on Wednesday. Workers convinced her that if she joined on every day of the strike, they were more likely to win. 

Striker Marie was one of those workers arguing with colleagues to strike together. She told Socialist Worker that workers at Amazon are desperate for change. “You hear stories of people selling their things, borrowing off their family and having to choose between heating or feeding themselves,” she said. 

“Some people work 60-hour weeks simply to get by. But how can people keep working those hours without being too tired or sick? No one should be forced to do this.” 

Marie added that managers can make their lives even more difficult when workers are sick or injured. “I had a knee injury on the job,” she said. “I had to be helped to the first aid room. Managers didn’t call the emergency services and didn’t try and help me find a way home. I would have been stranded if my husband couldn’t come and pick me up.” 

Striker Nick took over three months off from working at Amazon to undergo treatment for cancer.  He told Socialist Worker that because he was off for that time, managers called him in for a meeting. “I was handed a letter of concern while I was recovering from cancer,” he said. “The managers wouldn’t accept a letter I got from my consultant explaining how I was ill and said it was a fraud.” 

Striker Manuel said workers became even more furious after management said they would refuse to discuss pay in an all-staff meeting. “They told us before the meeting that we weren’t allowed to discuss pay but did tell us how well the company is doing,” he said. “They told us about all the money Amazon is giving to charity and how they are building more space for lorries to come in and out. That’s made people more angry. 

All of the strikers said that these strikes had built links and solidarity between workers at BHX4 that never existed before. Marie said, “When I first started here, I didn’t talk to anyone outside my immediate team. Now when I walk onto pickets or into work when we’re not on strike everyone says hello.” “People are joining on picket lines every day we strike,” she added. 

Manuel added, “It was people talking to each other that led to this momentum to build. It was what led us to go on wildcat strike last year.  Managers like to take advantage of those whose English isn’t as good, but it won’t work when it comes to the strikes. Workers who do speak the same language are there to convince the workers whose English might not be as good. People are losing money standing on pickets lines, but they want to be here. They don’t mind standing in the cold because they want better.”

He added that striking with others on Walkout Wednesday was important. “Everyone needs to strike,” he said. “Nobody can afford to live anymore, and striking is the only thing we can do.” 

Amazon workers planned to continue their strike on Thursday and Friday of this week. Workers also planned to discuss where next for the strike on Wednesday. Workers at BHX4 in Coventry are leading the way. Strikes at other sites could ring Amazon to its knees. 

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