By Mark Fairlie.
Following years of criticism over the wages it pays its staff, Amazon will raise the amount it pays to its UK and US staff across the board from 1st November.
Amazon staff in America will receive at least $15 an hour, placating “Fight for Fifteen” campaigners who have been calling for a country-wide minimum wage level at that level for many years. In the UK, staff will receive £9.50 an hour (rising to £10.50 an hour in London), more than the amount recommended by the National Living Wage charity.
According to BBC News, 17,000 employees plus seasonal workers will benefit from the pay hike.
However, when the staff’s wages are increased, the company will, at the same time, remove £1,500 a year worth of employee share and incentive schemes for thousands of workers. The GMB union, quoted by the Guardian newspaper, described the company as “imposing a stealth tax on its own wage increase”.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Opposition, gave a “cautious welcome” to the announcement, reports Sky News. Claiming that staff and unions caused the change, he said that “the fight goes on to improve working conditions and get this company to pay its fair share of taxes”.
Frances Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, called on the company to finally recognise unions, stating that the wage hike was “only a start and (it) should not be spun as a huge act of generosity”.
Speaking to the Daily Herald, Jim McCourt of Inverclyde Advice and Employment Rights Centre said that some of the workers were “really unhappy” about the abolition of the employee share and incentive schemes, adding that “they are basically paying for their own wage rise”.
The GMB union, in a press release on their website, called the move “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and stated that “workers still graft in horrific conditions to impossible targets and Amazon refuses to listen to or engage with a trade union”.
Amazon rebutted the GMB’s claims telling Yahoo! UK News that Amazon was a “safe place to work” quoting government figures that it had “43% few injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing companies in the UK”. They also claimed that there is an “open-door policy” which encourages a “direct connection” between staff and management.
Amazon has, according to many studies and opinion polls, one of the most respected corporate brands in the world. A SurveyMonkey report from July 2018 showed that Amazon “topped the list” of companies which “care most about their customers” and that the company finished in 7th place among the top 10 companies that people (including millennials) are “most excited to work for”. A Forbes investigation from 2017 listed the company as the second most reputable in the US.
However, its perception as an employer is generally considered to be much lower than its reputation as a tech innovator and in customer services. So much so that, in the United States, Bernie Sanders, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate launched the “Stop BEZOs Act” (“Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies”) named after Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos.
Reacting to the announcement, Mr Sanders congratulated Bezos stating that the company is “helping to lead the way” and that there is “no reasons why other profitable corporations” should follow suit.