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STRIKES

Amazon workers strike throughout Germany on ‘Prime Days’

Germany’s Verdi trade union is using Amazon’s “Prime Days” - mass online sales on Monday and Tuesday - to put pressure on the company in the long-running collective bargaining dispute at its logistics centres.

Amazon workers strike throughout Germany on 'Prime Days'
A file picture shows a previous strike poster in Werne, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

A total of 2,000 employees have gone on strike at seven logistics centres in Werne, Rheinberg, Leipzig, Graben, Koblenz and at the two sites in Bad Hersfeld “for at least two days”, union Verdi said in a statement Monday. 

Under the motto “No more discounts on our incomes”, employees are demanding collectively agreed incomes, as are common retail and mail-order sectors, said Verdi.

Germany is the online giant’s second largest market, trailing the US where it’s based. Since 2013, employees throughout Germany have frequently staged strike on discount days.

SEE ALSO: Amazon workers strike at four locations in Germany

“While Amazon continues lowering its prices for large bargain hunts, its own employees are deprived of a living wage,” said Verdi spokesperson Orhan Akman in a statement. “This must come to a stop.”

The money for this is available, said Akman. In the first quarter of this year alone Amazon, according to its own figures, achieved a record profit of around 3.2 billion worldwide.

The strike action coincided with Amazon's announcement on Monday that it would create another 1,000 jobs in Poland as it opens a new logistics depot in the country's southwest near the German and Czech borders.

The US giant said it will offer new employees in Poland “a competitive salary of 20 zloty (4.68) per hour gross”.

In Germany, Amazon employees start with a minimum wage of 10.78 per hour before tax, according to management figures, and after 24 months' employment, they draw an average monthly salary reaching 2,397 before deductions.

The online retail giant has faced several rounds of walkouts by workers seeking better conditions.

In 2018, industrial action reached a new height as around 50 strikes were organized around Europe and, in a rare show of cross-border solidarity, some were coordinated to hit simultaneously in several countries.

In April, Amazon trade union representatives from 15 countries met in Berlin to co-ordinate their efforts.

A 'responsible employer'

To stymie the strikes, the online retailer had previously offered bonuses for the employees who show up at work rather than joining in. 

The American company repeatedly stresses that the company is a “responsible employer” even without a collective agreement.

Already on Sunday, the spokesman had assured that customer orders would be processed on time, “as on any other day”.

Throughout Germany, Amazon has 12 warehouses at 11 locations and, according to its own figures, employs around 13,000 permanent staff.

It recently announced that it plans to open another logistics centre in Bremen, a northern harbourside city with Germany’s lowest unemployment rate. 

Vocabulary

The discount – (der) Rabatt

Retail – (der) Einzelhandel 

Collective agreement – (der)Tarifvertag

The bargain hunt – (die) Schnäppchenjagd

Mail order business – (der) Versandhandel

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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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