‘Enough Is Enough:’ Amazon Workers Aimed to Turn Black Friday Into a Day of Protests in Europe

For most people across the U.S., the Friday after Thanksgiving means a big shopping day.

Now the Black Friday tradition has started to make its way across the pond to the U.K. and parts of Europe as well, and international retailers have been gearing up for the big event.

Amazon, for example, has been stocking shelves, and it hired thousands of seasonal workers in preparation for this holiday season. People across the U.K. have already bought items on Amazon at records levels, according to CNBC—with 100,000 toys and 60,000 beauty items purchased by mid-Friday morning.

But there’s at least one group of people that does not have such positive feelings toward Black Friday, or Amazon, for that matter, and are using the quasi-holiday to show it. Amazon employees have planned protests across Europe to coincide with Black Friday to demonstrate against what they call unfair working conditions.

Amazon Prepares For Black Friday Sale
Amazon fulfillment workers gear up for Black Friday and Christmas on November 13, 2018 in Swansea, Wales, as the American tradition jumps the pond. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Matthew Horwood—Getty Images

Not all Amazon employees in Europe are planning to participate, but those involved hope their action will disrupt the e-commerce giant’s Black Friday operations to some extent. For instance, approximately 90% of workers at a logistics depot near near Madrid walked out Friday morning, reports the Associated Press.

For its part, Amazon has denied the 90% figure reported by AP as “categorically wrong,” in a statement to Fortune.

“Today, the majority of our associates at Amazon’s Fulfillment Center in San Fernando de Henares (Madrid) are working and processing our customers’ orders, as they do every day, while we respect the rights of a group of associates to choose to go to strike,” Amazon said.

Worker protests or strikes were also planned or reported in France, Germany, Poland, and Italy, though Amazon denied that protests occurred in Poland and Italy, saying, “it’s business as usual for our business and the vast majority of our associates.”

“Our European Fulfillment Network is fully operational as we all remain focused on delivering the best customer experience for the peak season. Any reports to the contrary are simply wrong,” the statement says.

In France, environmentalists also staged a protest outside of the country’s Amazon headquarters, reportedly accusing the company of encouraging over-consumption. Approximately 40 people dumped old electronics and home appliances outside Amazon’s office to protest its Black Friday sale.

In the U.K., the trade union GMB has helped organize demonstrations across five fulfillment centers, protesting safety conditions. GMB general secretary Tim Roache told Buzzfeed earlier this week that Amazon employees are working under “inhuman” circumstances and the protest is intended to send a message to the company that “enough is enough.”

“People with kids, homes, bills to pay — they’re not robots,” he continued. “Jeff Bezos is the richest bloke on the planet; he can afford to sort this out. You’d think making the workplace safer so people aren’t carted out of the warehouse in an ambulance is in everyone’s interest, but Amazon seemingly have no will to get round the table with us as the union representing hundreds of their staff.”

In response, Amazon told Fortune that the company is a “fair and responsible employer. We believe in continuous improvement across our network and maintain an open and direct dialogue with our associates.”

Amazon workers in Europe similarly staged a protest in tandem with Prime Day over the summer.

This story has been updated to include comments from Amazon.

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