Amazon has defended its pay to employees after the GMB union said its warehouse staff will become the first in the UK to take part in a formal strike ballot.

The union said hundreds of workers have begun voting on whether to walk out in anger over the company’s apparent 35p per hour pay offer.

The ballot closes on 19 October and the GMB said any industrial action was likely to take place in November.

However, an Amazon spokesman told that its starting pay for employees had increased to a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 an hour, depending on location.

The spokesman said: “This represents a 29% increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to Amazon associates since 2018.

“On top of this, employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package that includes private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, subsidised meals, an employee discount and more, which combined are worth thousands of pounds annually, as well as a company pension plan,” he added.

GMB senior organiser Amanda Gearing said the Amazon workers were “making history” by being the first ever in the UK to take part in a formal strike ballot.

She said: “They’re being offered 35p an hour during the worst cost of living crisis in a generation – and that’s from a company worth more than £1 trillion.

“Understandably, they are furious.

“Amazon can afford to do better,” she said. “It’s not too late to avoid strike action; get round the table with GMB to improve the pay and conditions of workers.”