Freedom News

Cleaners fight Amazon

Minimum wage cleaners at Amazon warehouses in Enfield and Ipswich are set to ballot for strike action over attempts to cut their paid breaks and bank holiday enhancements. 

The cleaners, outsourced to Mitie and part of the FTSE 250 Index, come from Latin America, Romania, and England and are the lowest paid workers in Mitie and Amazon. Yet in 2023, Mitie boasted a revenue of over £4 billion after expanding into several industries and businesses in the public and private sectors, and Amazon’s revenue was in the hundreds of billions last year.

“I come from a country that lives in fear every day because of many circumstances, but everyone gets up to fight and move forward every day. This helps me understand that the only option is to fight for your rights and defend what you think and what is right for you and others. In the same way that big companies defend their financial stability, I, as an ordinary person, have the right to defend myself against their abuses. I feel that everything is for the company’s convenience; they don’t think about the workers at all. We are not just a number; we are people who need to work but have a home and a family. Our bosses should have more humanity.”  

~  Jessica, an Amazon warehouse cleaner and UVW member.

The members of UVW are indignant that the wealthy companies are trying to save pennies off their backs by attempting to take away their paid breaks and reducing the number of days and hours worked by some cleaners. The cuts will only serve to impoverish the cleaners even further. 

The cleaners are fighting back against the attempts to cut their pay by preparing to ballot to strike and taking legal action regarding breach of contract and TUPE regulations. They also demand a substantial pay increase to over £13 an hour and a full pay sick pay scheme. 

 Some of the cleaners have claimed they were pressured into agreeing to changes before consultation meetings and before they were aware they could seek support and advice from UVW. In the consultation meeting this month, Mitie offered no justification for the changes and instead suggested their intention to increase the hourly rate to 61p above the minimum wage as of 1 April would compensate them for the cuts in other areas. UVW argues this is evidently not the case as the loss of pay of the paid breaks and the double time enhancement on bank holidays far outstrip the 61p increase.

 “It feels like my job could disappear at any moment if I don’t comply with what feels like a forcible contract change. I am already on minimum pay; I know there is nothing I can do by myself. This is the first union I have ever been a part of; it’s the first time I’ve felt like I’ve needed to be in a union, and I’ve had many jobs before. This all came out of the blue; they didn’t mention changes, and they didn’t negotiate or talk to us. I’ve never felt so anxious.” 

~ Casey, an Amazon warehouse cleaner and first time union member

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