'We are not robots': Thousands of Amazon workers across Europe are striking on Black Friday over poor warehouse working conditions

Amazon Black Friday protest Milton KeynesProtestors outside Amazon's warehouse in Milton Keynes, UK.Leon Neal/Getty Images

  • Thousands of Amazon staff across Europe are striking and protesting on Black Friday in anger at the company's warehouse working conditions.
  • Strikes are taking place across Amazon sites in Italy, Spain, Germany, and France. Italian press reported managers having to pack boxes to meet demand.
  • In the UK, the GMB trade union and off-shift Amazon workers are demonstrating outside warehouses.
  • UK politicians voiced their support for the protest, with the deputy leader of the opposition calling on Amazon management to listen to staff concerns.
  • An Amazon spokesman said: "All of our sites are safe places to work and reports to the contrary are simply wrong."

Thousands of Amazon staff across Europe are protesting on Black Friday over how the company treats its warehouse workers.

A coalition of unions across Europe coordinated the action, and the British trade union GMB published a video of staff telling Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos "we are not robots" in five different languages.

In Italy, Spain, Germany, and France, workers are striking for 24 hours or more. Italian publication Corriere Della Sera reported that managers were having to step in and package items to deal with demand.

UNI Global, the trade union helping coordinate the walkout, said roughly 2,400 staff are on strike in Europe, but people on the ground are reporting higher numbers of protestors. 

Amazon Germany told Reuters that 620 employees participated in the strike across two of its warehouses, while German union Verdi told Business Insider that 1,000 workers are walking out.

In Spain, unions said 1,600 employees have downed tools for the day.

Madrid Amazon Black Friday protestAn Amazon protestor in MadridCCOO de Madrid

In the UK, protestors, including off-shift Amazon workers, started demonstrating outside company warehouses in the early hours of the morning.

A GMB spokesman told Business Insider on Thursday that the purpose of the UK protests was not to disrupt Amazon's Black Friday sales but to raise awareness. "All we want is to get Amazon around the table," he said.

In a press release sent to Business Insider, the GMB said it was protesting "inhuman conditions" at the warehouses. It cited figures from a Freedom of Information request, showing a single Amazon warehouse in Britain had called ambulances to the site 115 times over a three-year period.

Read more: Amazon is paying people to tweet nice things about warehouse working conditions after horror stories of staff peeing in bottles

The protests garnered support from UK politicians. Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour party, tweeted a video calling for Amazon UK management to come to the table. Shadow Digital Minister Liam Byrne also voiced his support for the protest.

"Your employees need better conditions and better recognition," Watson said.

Amazon said it had nothing to add to a statement issued ahead of the protest on Thursday. A spokesman said:

"All of our sites are safe places to work and reports to the contrary are simply wrong. According to the UK Government's Health and Safety Executive, Amazon has over 40% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing companies in the UK.

"We encourage everyone to compare our pay, benefits, and working conditions to others and come see for yourself on one of the public tours we offer every day at our centers across the UK."

Ruqayyah Moynihan, INSIDER's Associate Translation Editor, also contributed to this report.
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