Amazon workers are expected to stage rallies and protests against "inhumane conditions" at five of the internet giant's UK warehouses to coincide with its widely publicised Black Friday sales, unions have told BuzzFeed News.
A source said the GMB union — which advocates for Amazon workers in the UK but is not officially recognised to negotiate with the company on their behalf — is organising the protests, while other European unions will stage similar Black Friday events in an effort to highlight issues with Amazon's working conditions.
In Spain, workers outside Amazon's large Madrid factory have been called on by local unions to walk off the job on Friday. Sources say industrial action is also planned at factories in Poland, Italy and Germany.
It's the latest headache for Amazon. As well as being widely criticised by unions for workers' conditions at sites around the world, the company has come under fire for the generous government concessions it recently received around the bidding process for the company's second US headquarters.
GMB told BuzzFeed News its Black Friday protests would occur across five of Amazon's distribution centres – Rugeley, Milton Keynes, Warrington, Peterborough and Swansea. Earlier this year, the union revealed that ambulances were called to Amazon UK factories 600 times over the course of three years.
In a statement on Wednesday, GMB general secretary Tim Roache said Amazon's factory workers were "not robots", calling on the company to negotiate with the union.
“The conditions our members at Amazon are working under are frankly inhuman," They are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious and being taken away in ambulances.
“We're standing up and saying enough is enough, these are people making Amazon its money. People with kids, homes, bills to pay — they're not robots.
“Jeff Bezos is the richest bloke on the planet; he can afford to sort this out. You'd think making the workplace safer so people aren't carted out of the warehouse in an ambulance is in everyone’s interest, but Amazon seemingly have no will to get round the table with us as the union representing hundreds of their staff."
It follows similar widespread industrial action against the company earlier in the year during another of the company's biggest selling days, "Amazon Prime day".
In response to questions about industrial action across Europe, an Amazon spokesperson said the European delivery network was "fully operational", while also stressing that the company provides fair jobs and conditions for workers.
"Our European Fulfillment Network is fully operational and we continue to focus on delivering for our customers," the statement read. "Any reports to the contrary are simply wrong."
"We are a fair and responsible employer. We believe in continuous improvement across our network and maintain an open and direct dialogue with our associates.
"These are good jobs with highly competitive pay, full benefits, and innovative training programs like Career Choice that pre-pays 95% of tuition for associates. In the UK, as an example, we recently increased the Amazon wage to start from £9.50 an hour and in the London are from £10.50 an hour."
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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