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Amazon workers protest against strikes

A group of "pro Amazon" employees are standing up to strikes in the firm's German distribution centres by trying to portray a more positive image of the US online retail giant.

Amazon workers protest against strikes
Photo: DPA

Amazon employees are protesting against union lead strikes which hit their factories in the run up to Christmas, it was reported on Monday.

A petition at the end of December in the major distribution centres in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld collected over 1,000 signatures against a public "negative representation" of the internet giant.

The Amazon supporters are planning a t-shirt campaign in several centres, organizer Sandra Münch told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Monday.

T-shirts with the words "Pro Amazon" will be printed and sold to workers so that employees can display their support for their multinational employer.

One employee wrote on the Pro Amazon Facebook page: “We like working for Amazon and are happy here.”

Another said: “I was happy to get to work [for Amazon] over Christmas.”

But opponents of Amazon have also used the 450-member Facebook group to publicize their criticism of the firm. One suggested Pro Amazon t-shirts should read, “Against better wages.”

Amazon has been hit with unrest over pay and working conditions culminating in a series of strikes over the past months initiated by Germany's powerful Verdi union.

But not all workers joined the industrial action. Many fear that strikes causing disruption could prompt Amazon to move distribution centres across the border to Poland, leaving them without work.

Heiner Reimann from Verdi Hesse has criticized the movement for "dividing the workforce" and has questioned whether Amazon itself may have initiated the t-shirt campaign to save face. "There's the question of who's behind this campaign," he told the paper.

"We know from our colleagues that there was pressure there," national Verdi spokeswoman Martina Sönnichsen told the paper, further suggesting that Amazon managers had stood by while signatures were collected.

Sandra Münch, who said she had collected 720 signatures in Leipzig and 280 in Bad Hersfeld, denied the accusation that pressure for the campaign came from her employers.

"Certainly not. It was all our own campaign," she said.

Meanwhile an Amazon spokesman has greeted the anti-strike movement:

 "We welcome the campaign because it shows how the majority of our workers think – that they have fair and good working conditions in the distribution centres," he said.

READ MORE: Amazon plays down German strikes

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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.

READ ALSO: 

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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