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“We listened to our critics”: Amazon to increase the pay of its lowest paid workers in the US and UK

Matthew Elmas /

Amazon

Source: AAP/Joe Castro.

After months of criticism over pay and conditions for its workers, Amazon has raised the minimum wage for all its US-based employees to $US15 ($20.90).

The decision will deliver a pay rise to more than 250,000 workers, as well as over 100,000 seasonal holiday employees, Amazon said in a statement on Wednesday Australian time.

The company had been paying a starting minimum wage of $US11 ($15.31) an hour, while financial disclosures reveal that its median pay was $US28,446 ($39,602), annually in 2017.

The global business has also raised the minimum wage for its more than 17,000 employees in the UK, lifting its rate to £10.50 ($19.02) in the London area and to £9.50 ($17.20) for other parts of the UK.

The pay changes in the UK and US will be effective from November 1 2018.

SmartCompany understands the wage increase will not extend to those working in Amazon warehouses in Australia.

There was no word from Amazon’s local operations on Wednesday afternoon as to whether Australian warehouse workers, employed via subcontractors, will receive a pay rise.

In a statement, chief executive and founder Jeff Bezos said he’d listened to critics.

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” Bezos said.

The e-commerce giant has been copping criticism from worker advocates in the US, UK and across the world in recent months over the pay and conditions for its warehouse workers.

In the US, Senator Bernie Sanders has waged a sustained campaign criticising Amazon and Bezos, calling on the company to improve its policies.

On Wednesday, he congratulated the business.

“What Mr Bezos has done today is not only enormously important for Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees, it could well be a shot heard around the world. I urge corporate leaders around the country to follow Mr Bezos’ lead,” Sanders tweeted.

The business has also come under fire from unions in Australia, which have criticised the e-commerce giant for working conditions in its warehouses, which rely on labour-hire firms.

Fairfax media published an investigation into working conditions within Amazon’s local warehouses last month, with one worker branding one site a “hellscape”.

Amazon Australia has disputed those allegations, calling them “intentionally sensational”.

In the US, Amazon will now also lobby for changes to federal minimum wage laws, which currently set the salary floor at $US7.25 ($10.09).

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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