Extinction Rebellion blockades Amazon UK hubs on Black Friday

Climate activists have blockaded Amazon distribution centres across the UK to highlight the company’s treatment of its workforce and what they say are its “environmentally destructive and wasteful business practices”.

Scores of Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists locked themselves together and used bamboo structures in an attempt to disrupt the online retail company’s distribution network on Black Friday – one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Unveiling banners reading “Infinite growth: Finite planet”, protesters said the blockade was part of an international action by XR targeting Amazon “fulfilment centres” in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

In the UK, activists targeted sites in Dunfermline, Doncaster, Darlington, Newcastle upon Tyne, Manchester, Peterborough, Derby, Coventry, Rugeley, Dartford, Bristol, Tilbury and Milton Keynes.

Rob Callender, 31, from Uxbridge, west London, was one of the XR protesters at the Dartford blockade. “We need to make Amazon pay for the damage it is doing to the environment … for the terrible damage hyper-consumerism is doing to our planet, creating emissions, poisonous waste and burned out workers who are denied the right to unionise in most places,” he said.

Protesters say they hope to continue the blockades for several hours – possibly into the weekend.

Amazon has been criticised for its treatment of its workers who have described gruelling conditions, unrealistic productivity targets, surveillance, bogus self-employment and a refusal to recognise or engage with unions unless forced.

Employees have also called on its founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, to do more to tackle the climate crisis.

In response to the protests an Amazon spokesperson said the company took its responsibilities “very seriously”.

“That includes our commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris agreement, providing excellent pay and benefits in a safe and modern work environment, and supporting the tens of thousands of British small businesses who sell on our store,” they said.

The spokesperson acknowledged there was “more to do”, adding: “We’ll continue to invent and invest on behalf of our employees, customers, small businesses and communities in the UK. We’re proud to have invested £32bn in the UK since 2010, creating 10,000 new permanent jobs across the country this year alone, and generating a total UK [direct and indirect] tax contribution of £1.55bn in 2020.”

Separate Black Friday protests organised by the Make Amazon Pay coalition of unions and campaign groups also took place at the company’s other sites across the UK on Friday.

Supported by the GMB Union, the Trades Union Congress, the International Transport Workers Federation and War on Want, and co-convened by the Progressive International and UNI Global Union, the campaign aims to highlight what they describe as the company’s abuse of workers and the planet.

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