Amazon Germany Threatened With More Strike Action

The German union Verdi has called for another strike by workers at Amazon Germany, over the e-commerce giant’s refusal to talk about a long-running pay dispute.

This is not the first time that staff have walked out. In December, workers went on strike in the middle of the busiest shopping period of the year. And last month, hundreds of workers downed their barcode scanners at Amazon’s Leipzig site.

Strike Call

Verdi negotiator Joerg Lauenroth-Mago reportedly claims that Amazon is refusing to talk about the matter, according to Reuters. The union has called for workers at distribution centres in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld to walk off the job this morning.

For months, the unions have demanded pay based on standards in the wider online retail industry. Amazon, however, has rejected the demand. It said that warehouse staff are logistics staff and not retail workers, and said they receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.

“Since the Amazon management continues to reject collective bargaining, Verdi today, Thursday, April 17, 2014 , has again called for a full day strike at the Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig,” said a Google translation of the Verdi strike call statement.

“Amazon continues to deny any talk of a collective agreement – which testifies to a lack of respect for the outstanding performance that the Amazon employees shall carry out day after day ,” said  Joerg Lauenroth-Mago.

“The period of fasting (for Lent) is over, and the workers at Amazon rightly expect the binding collective agreements, protection of their wages and working conditions,” said Verdi strike leader in Bad Hersfeld, Mechthild Middeke. “This is not a claim that is brought in from outside the company , but the clear expectation of a large number of employees and the Verdi members of Amazon.”

Germany is an important market for Amazon, as that country is the second largest market after the US. Amazon employs around 9,000 people in its nine distribution centres in Germany, along with an army of 14,000 ‘Seasonal Fulfilment Associates’ for busy periods like Christmas. The pay for these workers starts at € 9.55 (£8.06) an hour.

Amazon Criticisms

Amazon is undoubtedly one of the most successful online operations, but it is not without its critics. Last year the company faced a storm of criticism in the UK and Europe in general, over the level of taxes it pays.

And last November, Amazon’s UK operation was heavily criticised after the BBC journalist Adam Littler managed to get a job at the company’s Swansea warehouse. An expert on work stress later said that Littler’s undercover reporting suggested the job carried “increased risk of mental illness and physical illness.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has meanwhile revealed the company is testing package delivery using airborne drones.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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