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Amazon bows to pressure, boosts wages for US and UK staff

Amazon has increased the minimum wage for US staff to $15, after founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said he had “listened to our critics” and “thought hard” about his firm’s response to sustained criticism about its pay levels.

Bezos’ announcement means more than 250,000 US and 17,000 UK staff, as well as a combined 120,000 seasonal holiday workers, will “benefit” from the new, higher pay from 1 November onwards. He said in a statement: “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”

Jay Carney, senior vice president of global corporate affairs, added: “We will be working to gain congressional support for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The current rate of $7.25 was set nearly a decade ago. We intend to advocate for a minimum wage increase that will have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and families across this country.”

In the UK the minimum wage in the London area has increased to £10.50, from £8.20, and £9.50, from £8.00, for the rest of the country for all full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees.

Doug Gurr, Amazon VP and UK country manager, said: “We’re excited to announce Amazon is raising our minimum wage for all full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary UK employees, effective 1 November. This will impact more than 37,000 employees across the country, resulting in higher pay for them and their families.”

The announcement comes after years of criticism of the world’s largest online retailer on both sides of the Atlantic, including from trade union GMB in June this year, which said it had investigated the company’s warehouses and found “terrible conditions” and “poor treatment” of workers.

In response to the minimum wage increase, Tim Roache, general secretary at GMB, said he is “glad” Amazon heeded GMB’s “long-standing calls” to pay people the “minimum they need to live”, but added the group “needs to improve the horrendous working conditions people endure in its warehouses”.

He said: “GMB has heard horrific tales from the shop floor, of a woman in late pregnancy having to stand for a 10 hour shift, hundreds of ambulance callouts to Amazon warehouses and nearly 90% of our Amazon members saying they experience constant pain at work.

“GMB are ready and willing to help sort that out, but they won’t let a trade union through their doors. So this isn’t ‘job done’ by any stretch.”

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