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STRIKES

Amazon workers in Germany stage strike on ‘Black Friday’

More than 2,000 Amazon workers in Germany walked off the job as the US online retailer kicked off its "Black Friday" sales bonanza, escalating a long-simmering battle for better pay and working conditions.

Amazon workers in Germany stage strike on 'Black Friday'
File photo shows an Amazon centre in Dortmund. Photo: DPA

The strike called by the powerful Verdi union is set to last until Tuesday morning and will also cover “Cyber Monday”, another extravaganza of online discounts in what is a crucial sales period for Amazon.

Some 2,200 employees took part in Friday's walkouts at Amazon distribution centres in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, Koblenz, Rheinberg, Werne and Graben, a Verdi spokesman said.

“Their work cannot be had at rock-bottom prices,” Verdi said in a statement, demanding a collective labour agreement to ensure “a living wage and good, healthy jobs”.

READ ALSO: Amazon workers strike throughout Germany on 'Prime Days'

The union accused Amazon of “withholding basic rights” from staff and of making them work “under extreme pressure”.

“As a result, many employees become ill,” Verdi said.

Amazon played down the strike's impact, saying “packages will arrive on time”.

The company has long resisted the union's call for labour negotiations, defending its work environment and insisting that is “one of the best employers in the logistics industry”.

“We pay at the upper end of what is usual for comparable work, we offer additional benefits and review wages annually,” the company said.

The majority of its 13,000 employees in 13 logistics centres across Germany will be working “as normal”, it added.

Amazon has been hit by repeated strikes in Germany and other countries in recent years.

Last year's “Black Friday” event saw stoppages by workers in Spain, Germany and Britain.

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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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