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Amazon raises minimum wage after pay-level criticism from the Archbishop of Canterbury

Posted on: October 2, 2018 2:10 PM
Archbishop Justin Welby addresses the Trades Union Congress in Manchester last month.
Photo Credit: Jess Hurd / TUC

The international online retailer Amazon has announced it is raising its minimum wage levels, just weeks after it was criticised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for not paying its staff enough to live on. In a speech last month to Britain’s Trades Union Congress, Archbishop Justin criticised Amazon by name for not paying “a real living wage”. At the time, Amazon defended its pay position, saying that it paid permanent employees in its UK fulfillment centres £8.35 an hour after two years service – a rate below the “real living wage” proposed by the Living Wage Foundation (LWF). Today, following weeks of coverage and debate about the Archbishop’s speech, Amazon says it will increase all wages above the LWF’s guidelines; and also said that it will campaign for a higher federal minimum wage in the US.

Speaking in September, Archbishop Justin said: “I was in business, and I know that, within limits, it is right and proper for people to arrange their tax affairs, and for companies to do so. But when vast companies like Amazon, and other online traders, the new industries, can get away with paying almost nothing in tax, there is something wrong with the tax system.

“They don’t pay a real living wage, so the tax payer must support their workers with benefits. And having leached off the tax payer once they don’t pay for our defence, for security, for stability, for justice, for health, for equality, for education. Then they complain of an undertrained work force, from the education they have not paid for, and pay almost nothing for apprenticeships.”

Today, in separate statements in the US and Britain, Amazon said it was increasing its minimum wage for all employees – including agency and temporary staff – with effect from 1 November. In the UK, Amazon will now play a minimum of £10.50 per hour in the London area and £9.50 for the rest of the UK. The LWF suggest a minimum wage of £10.20 in London, and £8.75 in the rest of the UK is needed to provide a real living wage.

Amazon said that its new minimum wage will benefit more than 17,000 Amazon employees and 20,000 seasonal employees who will be hired in the run-up to Christmas. “We’re excited to announce Amazon is raising our minimum wage for all full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary UK employees effective 1 November”, Amazon Vice President and UK Country Manager Doug Gurr said. “This will impact more than 37,000 employees across the country, resulting in higher pay for them and their families.”

The announcement was echoed in the US, where the company said it was introducing a new minimum wage of $15 USD (approximately £11.56 GBP) and would campaign to raise the federal statutory minimum wage of $7.25. The new wage will impact more than 250,000 Amazon employees in the States as well as more than 100,000 seasonal employees.

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead”, Amazon’s founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”

The company’s Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs, Jay Carney, said that it would lobby to increase the US statutory minimum wage. “We will be working to gain Congressional support for an increase in the federal minimum wage,” he said. “The current rate of $7.25 was set nearly a decade ago. We intend to advocate for a minimum wage increase that will have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and families across this country.”