- By Zoe Conway
- job reporter
Amazon may soon be forced to recognize a union in the UK for the first time.
The GMB union says it has registered the majority of workers at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse, which qualifies them for legal recognition.
It wrote to the company asking for recognition.
Amazon said it “respects employees’ right to choose whether or not to join a labor union”.
GMB believes they are close to achieving historic victory after a decade of trying.
If successful, that means Amazon will have to negotiate with workers about wages, vacation days and sick pay.
Amazon has ten days and 10 days to respond.
It said it regularly reviews wages and that starting wages are between £11 and £12 an hour.
“Over the past seven months, our minimum wage has increased by 10% and more than 37% since 2018,” it added.
The union estimates there are 1,300 workers at the Amazon distribution center in Coventry. It says the majority – almost 700 – have joined the GMB and says that means it has met the threshold for statutory recognition.
Darren Westwood, who works at the warehouse and has been a leader in getting people to join the union, said it was “fantastic” that recognition could happen soon.
“It was exciting because we went up against one of the biggest companies in the world and won,” he said.
If Amazon does not grant recognition, the body responsible for resolving accreditation disputes, the Central Arbitration Commission, may be asked to intervene.
The CAC may automatically grant recognition if it is convinced that the majority of the workforce wants the union to represent them. The workforce may be asked to vote to show their support for this.
Workers at the Coventry warehouse first started protesting about their pay last August – when only 30 of them were GMB members. They organized the first Amazon strike in the UK in January.
Since then, the company has increased the minimum starting wage to between £11 and £12 an hour, depending on location. The union is calling for an hourly wage of £15 an hour.
But disputes are not always about money. Mr Westwood said it was necessary to form a union because “sometimes it feels like management has no humanity”.
Having a union is, he said, “having that person by your side. It’s about having protection in your back pocket.”