‘We are not robots’: Thousands of Amazon workers across Europe are striking on Black Friday over warehouse working conditions

Amazon Black Friday protest Milton Keynes

  • Thousands of Amazon workers across Europe were striking and protesting on Black Friday in anger at the company’s warehouse working conditions.
  • Strikes were taking place across Amazon sites in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. The Italian press reported that managers were having to pack boxes to meet demand.
  • In the UK, the GMB trade union and off-shift Amazon workers were demonstrating outside warehouses.
  • UK politicians expressed support for the protest, with the deputy leader of the opposition calling on Amazon management to listen to staff concerns.
  • An Amazon spokesman said: “All of our sites are safe places to work and reports to the contrary are simply wrong.”

Thousands of Amazon staff members across Europe were protesting on Black Friday over the way the company treats its warehouse workers.

A coalition of unions across Europe coordinated the action, and the British trade union GMB published a video of workers telling Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos “we are not robots” in five different languages.

In Italy, Spain, France, and Germany workers planned to strike for 24 hours or more. The Italian publication Corriere della Sera reported that managers were having to step in and package items to deal with demand.

UNI Global, the trade union helping coordinate the walkout, said roughly 2,400 workers were on strike in Europe, but people on the ground are reporting higher numbers of protesters.

Amazon Germany told Reuters that 620 employees participated in the strike across two of its warehouses, while the German union Verdi told Business Insider that 1,000 workers were walking out.

In Spain, unions said 1,600 employees had downed tools for the day. Local reports also claimed that Amazon asked Spanish police to intervene in the strikes by enforcing worker productivity inside a warehouse on the outskirts of Madrid. Citing police sources, El Confiedencial reported that the police categorically refused Amazon’s request. Amazon strongly denied the claims.

Madrid Amazon Black Friday protest

In the UK, protesters including off-shift Amazon workers started demonstrating outside company warehouses in the early hours of the morning.

A GMB spokesman told Business Insider on Thursday that the purpose of the UK protests was not to disrupt Amazon’s Black Friday sales but to raise awareness. “All we want is to get Amazon around the table,” he said.

In a press release sent to Business Insider, the GMB said it was protesting “inhuman conditions” at the warehouses. It cited figures from a Freedom of Information request showing a single Amazon warehouse in Britain had called ambulances to the site 115 times over a three-year period.

Read more: Amazon is paying people to tweet nice things about warehouse working conditions after horror stories of staff peeing in bottles

The protests garnered support from UK politicians. Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, tweeted a video calling for Amazon UK management to come to the table. The Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn also voiced his support for the protest.

“Your employees need better conditions and better recognition,” Watson said.

Amazon said it had nothing to add to a statement issued Thursday ahead of the protest. A spokesman said:

“All of our sites are safe places to work and reports to the contrary are simply wrong. According to the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive, Amazon has over 40% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing companies in the UK.

“We encourage everyone to compare our pay, benefits, and working conditions to others and come see for yourself on one of the public tours we offer every day at our centers across the UK.”

Ruqayyah Moynihan, INSIDER’s Associate Translation Editor, also contributed to this report.

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