Foxglove supports Coventry Amazon workers & GMB to apply for formal union recognition!

Today is a historic day. Workers at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse, supported by the GMB union, are applying for the first legal recognition of a union in a UK Amazon warehouse, in defiance of the infamous union-busting tactics Jeff Bezos has deployed against workers around the world. We at Foxglove are proud to stand with Amazon workers and GMB and to provide legal support.

Gaining legal recognition as a union will give workers in Coventry a collective voice and many more tools to fight back against Amazon’s inhuman working conditions, insulting pay and surveillance systems that rank workers against each other in arbitrary performance tables, pushing them to work at even faster – and more dangerous speeds.

It’s worth being clear just how bad the situation is in Amazon’s robotic warehouses. In 2020/21, there were 1,000 serious injuries reported at British Amazon sites – and last year, nearly half of Amazon’s employees in the US reported getting hurt at work. 

During the pandemic, when most of us were unable to leave home, Amazon warehouse workers had to keep going to work, so people staying home could get their packages. Once lockdown ended, they expected a decent pay raise as reward for their hard work. Amazon said no.

That was the final straw. Workers decided to organise and fight back. Coventry has been the frontline of that struggle, being the first-ever Amazon warehouse to organise a legal strike. They’ve since walked out many more times. Huge credit for this must go to the incredible GMB trade union Midlands team, who have been organising in the warehouse for a decade.

To get a union recognised in law you basically need half the warehouse, plus one more worker, on-side. In technical terms, that is 50%+1 of the “bargaining unit”, in this case, the total number of ‘F1 Associates’ – that is, normal workers at the warehouse. By December 2022, in spite of a vicious anti-union campaign by Amazon, GMB had the numbers. 

But Jeff Bezos hates playing fair. Amazon moved to flood the warehouse with 1,000 new hires. Suddenly, the union-voting share of the bargaining unit was massively diluted.

Let’s put that in context. When Amazon submitted its original planning proposal to Coventry council, it said the warehouse was for 1,650 workers total. They are now more than a thousand over that. Does that sound safe to you?

Undercover journalist Oobah Butler even managed to get a job in Coventry as part of Amazon’s hiring spree. He was told by co-workers: ‘you were only hired because of the union vote.’ Workers have told Foxglove that many of the new hires have no work to do and have to simply stand around the shop floor until their shift ends.

But despite Amazon’s cheating tactics, GMB have decided to take on the challenge. They’ve been steadily increasing their numbers, including recruiting many of the same workers who were brought in to dismantle their first attempt at getting legal recognition. 

We believe they’ve now got the numbers for a successful application. That’s a historic achievement. But Amazon continue to demonstrate they don’t care about playing fair. 

That’s why we’re supporting the GMB and these workers as they file their application to the Central Arbitration Committee, the body responsible for awarding union recognition where a union has demonstrated majority support to make sure – this time – they get the legal recognition they deserve.

Please also consider contributing to the worker’s strike fund, which is run by the GMB Trade Union. You can show solidarity, by chipping in here.

The other fantastic members of the legal team supporting the workers and the GMB are Michael Newman of Leigh Day solicitors, Ben Jaffey KC of Blackstone Chambers and Melanie Tether of Old Square Chambers.

For all the updates on this historic bid by Coventry’s Amazon workers, hit the button below to stay up to date.