Amazon raises minimum wage for UK and US staff after working conditions criticised

Posted in 02 October 2018

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Founder Jeff Bezos says the online giant has "listened" to critics - raising hourly rates to £9.50 in the UK and £11.56 in the US.

Amazon has raised the minimum wage for all its employees in the UK and US, after facing stinging criticism over the wealth of its founder and working conditions.

From 1 November, workers in London will see their pay rise to £10.50 an hour, while those outside the capital will see their pay increased to £9.50 an hour.

More than 17,000 employees and 20,000 seasonal employees will benefit from the changes.

Currently, the hourly wage offered by Amazon UK is £8 an hour, while the voluntary "real" living wage is £10.20 an hour in London.

The online retail giant is also raising the minimum wage in the US to $15 (£11.57) for more than 250,000 employees.

Amazon has come in for sustained criticism from unions and politicians because of the working conditions in its warehouses, as well as its failure to pay workers a living wage.

Senator Bernie Sanders has accused the behemoth of underpaying its workers and forcing them to seek public assistance.

In July, he tweeted: "While Jeff Bezos' wealth increases by $275m (£212m) a day, Amazon workers are afraid to take bathroom breaks at work and are grossly underpaid."

Mr Bezos, Amazon's founder and chief executive, has topped the rankings as the world's richest man, with wealth in excess of $165bn (£127.2bn).

Announcing the wage hikes, he said: "We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead. We're excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has reacted cautiously to the announcement, saying: "Amazon didn't gift this, workers organised for it.

"The fight goes on to improve working conditions and get this company to pay its fair share of taxes."

Amazon currently operates a network of 16 UK fulfilment centres - sprawling warehouses that handle orders on behalf of customers and within its marketplace.

They have attracted criticism in the past amid allegations of tough working conditions, including exhausting performance targets for those arranging items for delivery.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Amazon is a trillion-dollar company. It can easily afford to pay staff higher wages.

"If Amazon is really serious about looking after its workforce it must recognise trade unions. And it must end the exploitative working practices that have seen hundreds of ambulances called to its UK warehouses.