Coventry Amazon strikers are fighting heroically but need strike to spread across company

Hundreds of Amazon workers took to picket lines in Coventry on last week’s Black Friday — one of the internet retailer’s busiest days. Workers in the GMB union formed solid picket lines and argued with colleagues to join the union and not go into work. They also blocked the road and refused to allow delivery and distribution trucks onto the site.

Strikers were joined by solidarity delegations from the international UNI Global Union network, including striking teamsters’ from California. Also on the picket line were delegates from Germany’s Verdi union and Amazon CGIL union strikers from Italy.

Jessie Moreno, a teamster Amazon delivery driver from Palmdale, California, said, “This isn’t just a US fight. This is a global fight, so we are happy to come here to support our brothers and sisters in the GMB. We have to stand together across the world. If we do so, we can and will win.”

The UNI Global Union brought the international delegations together as part of its “Make Amazon Pay” campaign. The network said there were some 150 actions against Amazon in more than 30 countries last Friday. That includes strikes in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the US, as well as the walkout in Coventry.

GMB general secretary Gary Smith promised “solidarity from the GMB national union.”

But he argued that Amazon’s weak link was not strikes, but the tens of millions of pounds it made from the public sector contracts on Amazon Cloud. And, he said the GMB would push politicians to withdraw those contracts if the firm refused to recognise the union.

International support is welcome, of course. But to be effective, it must come alongside a stronger campaign of strikes in Britain. The only way to win a £15 an hour wage for Amazon workers is through strikes here in Britain, not by relying on action elsewhere.

Smith says the government and public bodies could use their purchasing power to pressure Amazon into conceding union recognition and better pay. This is nonsense. He has no power to make this happen.

Certainly, the Tories are not going to give in to such a demand, but who would trust Keir Starmer’s Labour to do so? Smith’s tactics are a diversion from what is needed.

Victory can only be achieved by spreading the dispute to other Amazon fulfilment centres. Amazon activists must organise themselves to push for the campaign they want. They need to organise meetings in their workplaces and push for strikes themselves.

This is a historic battle, and it can be won—but not if it’s left in the hands of the union leaders.

Richard Milner

Top docs should reject the Tories’ poorly pay deal

A new offer to NHS consultants in the BMA union is designed to choke off one of the few remaining battles from the 2022-23 strike wave. It would see many senior doctors in the health service receiving an extra increase from January, on top of the 6 percent annual rise they have already been given this financial year.

It’s a highly complicated deal, but the one figure anyone needs to know is that the government is putting just an extra 4.95 percent into the pay pot. The in-year pay increase will actually only cost the government 3.45 percent, after the BMA agreed to end one of the merit awards systems consultants can get to top up their basic pay.

The amount individual doctors collect will vary from zero to nearly 13 percent. And the next increase would not be until 2024-25.

The offer comes after consultants in England struck for nine days—the last one was in early October. The BMA was expected to consult with members soon with a result in January. It has agreed to call no further strikes until then.

The union’s leadership is not making a recommendation on the deal. But it’s not telling them to reject it. The offer is a result of the strikes. Without them, there would have been no improvement.

But is a long way short of the consultants’ claim. They should reject it. The government is also in negotiation with the much larger group of junior doctors over pay. They have been involved in numerous walkouts over the past year, but no deal has yet been offered to them.

Against Mini Imperialism

Lorry drivers at the BMW Mini plant in Oxford entered their third week of strikes and overtime bans. The Unite union strikers are battling sub-contracted delivery company Imperial Logistics.

Imperial is threatening drivers with a 20 percent pay cut for a minimum of 19 weeks next year, while BMW rejigs its production lines. Rather than absorbing the loss, Imperial wants to offload the financial hit onto the drivers, deducting a day’s pay per week from their wage slips.

To rub salt in the wound, the company has reputedly offered its office staff an 8 percent pay rise. Imperial has something of a track record. Management have provoked three industrial disputes in the last 18 months. In a classic divide and rule move, Imperial drivers are on four different contracts.

Imperial’s parent company, DP World, made profits of £4.5 billion last year. But bosses there are same ones that sacked workers at P&O Ferries and replaced them cheaper and more vulnerable foreign workers.

Pickets have been buoyed by excellent news of other union action at the Mini plant. According to shop stewards, another Mini plant employer’ s plant workers may soon enter the fray. They have won a ballot for strikes that could start next Monday. If many hundreds of Rudolph and Hellman’s workers walked out that would likely force the plant to close during the strikes.

Visit picket lines at the Oxford Mini plant this Thursday, 7am-12 noon, and again on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday next week.

Geoff Taylor

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