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09.05.2023 / News /

Amazon cleaners on the brink of a historic union recognition win

“I want to call on fellow cleaners from other Amazon warehouses not to feel alone and to join our struggle, because where there is unity there is strength.”

José Francisco, Amazon cleaner and UVW member

A group of outsourced Amazon cleaners at a Dartford warehouse, in the outskirts of London, have forced their employer to agree to negotiate a voluntary recognition deal with their union, United Voices of the World (UVW), under threat of a strike ballot. The brave migrant workers will be the first cleaners on any Amazon site to win union recognition in the UK.

This historic decision came after the workers at the DBR1 Amazon warehouse in Dartford – who are outsourced to Phosters (FM) Limited, a Worcestershire-based facilities management company began balloting for strike action in the first week of May, proving that the threat of industrial action works!

For José Francisco, one of the cleaners at Amazon and UVW member, union recognition is a step forward in their struggle for dignity and respect at work, “Being able to sit down and negotiate with the company in a democratic way for better conditions for all workers is a very positive step,” he says. “I want to call on fellow cleaners from other Amazon warehouses not to feel alone and to join our struggle, because where there is unity there is strength.”

These Amazon cleaners are part of a joint UVW-co-ordinated and simultaneous balloting of cleaners, carers and concierge workers in nine workplaces in and around London. 

While recognition talks signal progress in the dispute, the Amazon cleaners also demand a pay rise to an hourly wage of no less than £11.95, and are resolute in their plans to go ahead with strike action if their demands are not met. Currently the cleaners receive only the national minimum wage which is lower than warehouse operatives.  

In 2021 Amazon had a turnover of £372 billion and Phosters parent company, a turnover of £56 million, with a profit of £156 billion and £2.7 million, respectively. 

Petros Elia, UVW general secretary said: “We all know that companies like Amazon make billions and use companies like Phosters to avoid giving cleaners the already meagre terms and conditions as their in-house workers. Amazon shareholders and Phosters directors – whose pay increased by 55% in 2021 – all benefit financially from this arrangement while the cleaners who keep their lucrative operations running 24/7 struggle to get by on poverty wages. It is of no surprise that Phosters have shifted the blame for the cleaners’ miserly wages onto the global delivery giant Amazon. This strike is a strike against Amazon and Phosters/” 

Mass balloting of workers from at least nine different workplaces across London and the South East is taking place this May as members join the current strike wave across private and public sectors. Workplaces include Amazon warehouses, Mercedes showrooms, London School of Economics, a prestigious south London private school and a state school, Sage Nursing home and luxury flats and Department of Education. 

The fight for a pay rise continues. Stay tuned for updates and ways to support them. 

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