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Union accuses Post of threatening workers

Service workers' union Verdi has accused Deutsche Post of trying to intimidate striking workers by threatening them with losing their jobs.

Union accuses Post of threatening workers
Postal workers on strike in April outside a branch in Munich. Photo: DPA

Verdi has already been in touch with Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who called on Post chairman Frank Appel to respond to the allegations, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Wednesday.

Based on phone calls, minutes and notes taken by those affected, Verdi says that one of its members was told that “higher-ups” were watching who walked out on strike “and would be looking closely at the contracts of people in temporary posts”.

In one depot, a manager held one-on-one conversations with all the people on fixed-term contracts working under him who were taking part in a strike.

“Some were totally intimidated and told me that they wouldn't be taking part in any more strikes,” one union organizer said.

Verdi deputy chairwoman Andrea Kocsis sent four pages of anonymized allegations to Gabriel, saying that the times, choice of words and lines of argument showed a “systematically directed picture” of intimidation.

In a letter to Appel on May 4th, Gabriel appears to accept the accusations fully, saying that “apparently managers used pressure to turn Verdi members against their union”.

All employers, “especially large firms partly owned by the federal government,” should “be expected to respect individual and collective employee rights without reservation,” he wrote.

The federal government owns 21 percent of Deutsche Post.

Spokespeople for the Post told SZ in a statement that “putting pressure on Verdi members is not what we understand by leadership and communications”.

But it added that “it's obvious that our managers explain the firm's understanding of how competitive wages are necessary and discuss it with employees”.

Verdi has called Post workers out on strikes in a battle over wages, working hours, and the Post's plans to outsource some package deliveries.

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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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