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First ever strike hits Amazon’s German unit

German employees of Amazon staged their first-ever walkouts on Tuesday as the US internet retail giant was hit by a dispute over pay.

First ever strike hits Amazon's German unit
Photo: DPA

Employees at two logistics centres in Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig launched a strike with the start of the early shift at 6am, the country’s largest services sector union Verdi said.

In Bad Hersfeld, strikers planned to march to a rally in the city centre at around 11am, while employees in Leipzig rallied in front of the warehouse. “There’s a good atmosphere. The whole thing is really great,” said Verdi’s chief negotiator Jörg Lauenroth-Mago.

Verdi is demanding that Amazon’s 9,000 employees in Germany be paid according to a sector-wide wage deal for the retail and mail-order industries. But the head of Amazon Germany, Ralf Kleber, rejected such demands in recent press interviews.

Bad Hersfeld is the largest of Amazon’s seven distribution centres in Germany, with a workforce of more than 3,000. The Leipzig site employs around 2,000 people.

Amazon says it pays an hourly wage of €9.30 to employees in their first year and then €10 after that.

Verdi is calling for a minimum hourly wage of €10.66 euros for Leipzig. Amazon’s working conditions in Germany were the subject of a public television documentary earlier this year which accused the group of bringing workers in from crisis-hit countries such as Spain to work at Amazon

warehouses.

The documentary alleged that employees were subjected to bullying from security personnel, some of whom wore clothing associated with neo-Nazi groups.

It also alleged that Amazon paid the workers less than advertised and that their belongings were regularly searched in the temporary housing they were provided.

AFP/jcw

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CHRISTMAS

Strikes hit Amazon in Germany in the run up to Christmas

Around 2,500 Amazon employees at seven sites across Germany were on strike on Tuesday and unions warned stoppages could continue up to Christmas.

Amazon parcel in factory
A parcel rolls along a conveyor belt at an Amazon packing facility in Gera, Thuringia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

The strikes at so-called “fulfilment” centres, where Amazon prepares packages before delivery, began in two locations on Monday.

The Verdi union is calling on Amazon for an “immediate” salary increase of three percent this year, followed by a further 1.7 percent next year, in line with a collective agreement for the retail sector, to which the e-commerce giant does not adhere.

Amazon could not continue to “refuse wage increases that other companies in the sector pay”, Verdi retail head Orhan Akman said in a statement Monday.

Amazon, which operates 17 centres in Germany, argues it is a logistics company, a sector in which the terms of work are considered to be less burdensome for the employer.

Amazon said it did not expect the strike to have an impact on clients.

However, a Verdi spokesman said the stoppage could cause disruption, particularly in Amazon’s rapid-delivery “Prime” offering.

Strikes were likely to continue “until the end of the year”, the spokesman said, impacting on the busy Christmas shopping period.

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Verdi, which first called for strikes at Amazon in May 2013, organised demonstrations outside the fulfilment centres on Tuesday to protest poor working conditions.

Amazon — which has seen its business boom during the coronavirus pandemic as consumers increasingly shopped online — announced in September that it would open eight new centres in Germany, creating 3,000 jobs by 2022.

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