A UNION is demanding that Amazon workers in Southampton should be given a “new deal”, as campaigners offer staff access to a whistle-blowing hotline.

The digital giant is being urged to recognise trade unions and share more of its wealth with its workforce – but it insists it already treats workers well.

The trade union Unite is advertising its confidential hotline online and in newspapers including the Daily Echo.

Its move coincides with the launch of Action on Amazon, a campaign for better treatment for staff. Campaigners were due to unveil a giant banner at Southampton’s Bargate today.

Amazon’s founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos is said to be the world’s richest man, with a fortune worth 196billion US dollars (around £142bn).

Amazon creating permanent roles in Southampton plus 200 Christmas jobs

Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said: “Unite has opened a confidential hotline for Amazon workers in Southampton to blow the whistle on poor treatment and working practices.

“Amazon attacks all attempts by workers to gain a collective voice of their own. This is why Unite is launching Action on Amazon to give Amazon workers a voice, so they don’t have to rely on whistle-blowing or calling confidential hotlines.

“Jeff Bezos has become the world’s richest man off the backs of workers who have played a crucial part in so many people’s lives during the pandemic. It is prime time Amazon gave workers in Southampton the right to be in a union and to do so without interference.”

Amazon increased its permanent workforce by a third last year and took on 20,000 seasonal staff. It almost doubled its profit over the previous year.

But Unite has criticised the company for not giving staff a voice through trade unions and not signing up to the United Nations Global Compact or the Ethical Trading Initiative.

Amazon last year increased permanent staff from 40 to more than 50 at one of its two Southampton sites and from around 20 to more than 80 at the other. It hired around 200 seasonal staff.

Amazon said: “The fact is we already offer our employees excellent pay, excellent benefits and excellent opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment. Our competitive wages start at £9.70 or £10.80 per hour depending on location, and we’d encourage anyone to compare this to the wages and benefits offered by other retailers.

“We’re proud to have created 10,000 new permanent roles across the UK in 2020, taking our total permanent UK workforce to more than 40,000. Our people have played a critical role in serving customers in these unprecedented times and the new roles help us continue to meet customer demand and support small and medium sized businesses selling on Amazon.”

Southampton Test’s Labour MP Alan Whitehead, a shadow business minister, said: “The reports that I’ve heard about from the Unite and GMB unions about conditions in some Amazon warehouses are very worrying and highlight the UK’s chronic failure to protect workers’ rights. I am therefore encouraged by the work being done to improve conditions at Amazon. However, the government must introduce a robust Employment Rights Bill to protect all workers.”

Unite’s hotline is on 08000 141 461.