June 12, 2014

Amazon Anonymous campaigners take to Amazon to demand the Living Wage




A group of campaigners fighting to get the Living Wage for Amazon employees have come up with an ingenious way of getting Amazon’s attention.

Amazon Anonymous, a group campaigning on behalf of Amazon employees to receive the Living Wage of  £7.65, has placed a fake listing on Amazon.co.uk which reads like the listing for a book: “Amazon: pay living wages to your workers [Paperback]”, written by “Amazon Anonymous”, published by “Anonymous House”.  The price of the product? £7.65 of course.

On the site, the Product Description reads:

Over 62,000 people have called on Amazon to end poverty pay in 2014 – but Amazon has yet to take our demand seriously so we’ve brought it direct to amazon.co.uk.

£7.65 is the living wage rate across the UK outside London where most of Amazon’s warehouses are located. That’s all it needs to commit to paying to end poverty wages.

With billions in UK sales each year, Amazon has more than enough money to pay its workers wages they can live on. Amazon has been outed for treating its workforce like undignified robots, from unfair sack-if-you’re-sick policies to allegedly warning workers off joining unions that could help them fight for their rights. Paying living wages won’t solve all Amazon’s problems, but it will mean workers across the country can afford the bare essentials of life.

Amazon, it’s time to pay up!

On its website, Amazon.co.uk states that all permanent employees in its fulfillment centres “start at a minimum of £7.10 per hour increasing to a median of £8.00 per hour after 24 months.” This means Amazon employees, or “associates” as the company insists on referring to them, must stay in the job for two years before seeing a pay rise.

But as we have covered on MobyLives before, Amazon fulfillment centres promise such gruelling and soul-destroying work that it seems highly unlikely that anyone would stick it out for two entire years, and it certainly isn’t recommended. Amazon Anonymous argues that employees should be paid more up front, and an amount that respects the cost of living in Britain today. Why should Amazon’s employees subsidize the company for two years before they are given the pay they deserve?

Just like any other product on Amazon, customers can review the product and leave comments. So far, 326 customers have “reviewed” the product, which now has an average customer rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Reviews range from the straight-forward: “PAY YOUR WORKERS A LIVING WAGE, PAY YOUR TAXES IN THE UK.” to offers of negotiation, “if you do this, I might even start buying things from you again” to the humorous, “This is an excellent read. It should be on the new GCSE reading lists. I shall be writing immediately to Mr Gove to recommend it.”

Even the fifteen 1-star reviews are actually in favour of the movement. It’s just Amazon they’re against:

Sure, today it’s a living wage and treating staff like human beings, but next you’ll be asking Amazon to pay their fair share of taxes! It’s a slippery slope that can only lead to corporations being held accountable for their dodgy business practices, and who wants that? Put profits before people and avoid this product at all costs!

Although Amazon removed the listing once on Wednesday, at the time of writing the product was available again and the reviews were building. Speaking to the Guardian, a spokesperson for the campaign, Emily Kenway said,

Amazon is laughing at us; portraying itself as an important employer of British labour whilst keeping large numbers of its workforce on insecure, temporary contracts, paid less than Living Wages and treated like undignified robots. This company has found its way into the fabric of our society, but as consumers and concerned citizens, we need to say enough is enough.

Amazon Anonymous’s own website is a fantastic resource for how to take action against the online bully. Its “Recovery Programme” offers alternative shopping destinations, as well as links to unions and campaign groups. You can add your name to its ongoing online petition. Or, just leave a review on its Amazon page.


Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.