Amazon is raising its minimum wage in the US and UK after CEO Jeff Bezos “thought hard” about criticism over his company’s treatment of workers.
The online retailer will increase minimum wage to US$15 in the US and £10.50 (US$13) in the UK starting Nov. 1.
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Bezos, who is urging rivals and other companies to do the same.
“We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us,” he said.
The minimum wage hike will cover 250,000 employees, including 100,000 seasonal hires, in the US and 17,000 employees and 20,000 temporary staff in the UK.
The raise will also include workers at organic foods retailer Whole Foods, which was acquired by Amazon in August 2017.
Whole Foods employees have reportedly started plans to organise a union that will advocate for 85,000 workers. Amazon’s purchase of the supermarket chain allegedly “upset the livelihood of team members, stirred anxiety, and lowered moral[e] within stores”.
One of Amazon’s critics, Sen. Bernie Sanders, commended the online retailer for increasing pay:
“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,” Sanders said.
The senator earlier proposed the bill: “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act” otherwise known as the “Stop BEZOS Act”.
After the wage hike announcement, Amazon said it would also begin lobbying for an increase in the US federal minimum wage, which is set at $7.25.