Campaigners unfurl banner at Sheffield’s sites after union files complaint against Amazon for pandemic price rises
Campaigners have unfurled an anti-exploitation banner at Sheffield’s iconic sites on Wednesday after workers’ union Unite filed a formal complaint against retailer Amazon for alleged abuse of its market position over price rises at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
Unite said the complaint, filed to the Competition and Markets Authority, was made after they uncovered “compelling evidence” of price gouging on essential items throughout 2020 when vulnerable and older people had to stay home and relied on home deliveries.
About 50 different items have been identified that were being sold on the Amazon site for at least double their usual price from March to November 2020 onwards amid reports that it reported first-quarter profit more than tripled from a year ago, driven by the growth of online shopping.
They include soap, antibacterial spray and wipes, washing up liquid, hand wash, bleach, thermometers, face masks, toilet paper, disposable gloves, sanitary products, vitamins, toothpaste, sudocream, tea and tinned food.
Unite is now calling for Amazon to repay the overcharges.
Sharon Graham, Unite Executive Officer for Organising and Leverage said: “Amazon is steeped in corporate irresponsibility, from its anti-union tactics to tax avoidance and the destruction of millions of items of unsold stock. Now Amazon stands accused of profiting from price gouging on its website at the height of the pandemic when vulnerable people were most at need.
“Unite represents Amazon workers but also thousands more pensioners and workers who had to shield during the pandemic. Some of our members died after exposure to Covid 19 while acting as key workers. It’s high time Amazon is held to account for profiteering during the pandemic. We hope our complaint to the CMA leads to a full investigation of Amazon’s practices.
“Amazon’s profits have tripled off the backs of workers who have been essential during the pandemic. But the company continues to be plagued by reports of poor working conditions and anti-union tactics.
"Amazon workers are not currently free to join a union without fear, and without obstruction and propaganda being deployed against them. Workers have serious concerns about issues such as bullying, mandatory overtime, intense surveillance, break-neck production targets and much more besides. Amazon workers need an independent voice to stand up against injustices in the workplace.
"Unite has recently written to Jeff Bezos in response to claims from the company about respecting UK workers’ rights to join and form a union. Our union is calling on the company to make a clear commitment and sign up to a declaration of neutrality.”
In response, Amazon stressed that the company has ‘no place for price gouging’.
A spokesperson said: “We worked with the CMA more than a year ago to stop attempts by some sellers to take advantage of the global health crisis. Our action at the time was clear and decisive - we removed the offers referenced in this complaint and terminated seller accounts. We continue to monitor our store 24/7 to remove offers that violate our policies.”
The giant banner, which read ‘Stop the Exploitation’ was seen at Sheffield Cathedral, Sheffield Winter Garden and The Millennium Gallery.