Amazon workers in Germany prepare to revolt

Amazon workers in Germany prepare to revolt

Summary: A strike is planned at Amazon's German operations in the middle of the Christmas season, due to a dispute over pay.

TOPICS: Amazon

Employees at Amazon are planning a four-pronged strike against various centers as a pay dispute reaches the next level.

As reported by Reuters, the Ver.di union said the strike, due to begin today, will hit the retail giant's logistic centres in Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig and Graben. In addition, a delegation -- with assistance from U.S. worker unions -- will protest at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle, right on the company's doorstep.

A protest will take also place in Werne, Germany on Tuesday.

The e-commerce giant and worker unions have been in talks over pay. Ver.di has tried to make Amazon agree to improvements in working conditions and pay packets for over a year, resulting in a number of short strikes that began at the start of 2013. Ver.di wants Amazon to abandon its own pay scale and adopt wage agreements used within the German retail and mali-order sector -- which creates entitlement to a higher entry-level wage than those working in logistics, where most of the retail giant's workers are categorized. The union says:

"Employees at Amazon deliver excellent work every day, and for that they rightfully demand the assurance and protection of retail and mail-order sector wage agreements, as well as healthy working conditions and respectful treatment."

However, Amazon maintains that staff in the Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig-based centers receive above-average wages in comparison to other employees in the industry.

Amazon employs more than 9,000 workers in the country, which generated approximately $8.7 billion in revenue last year. The Ver.di union expects at least 1,000 workers in Germany to participate in the strike.

In addition to the pay dispute, Ver.di is also unhappy with working conditions, in particular the "constant monitoring" of workers and impossible work targets. These issues were brought to the spotlight earlier this year thanks to a BBC investigation in to working conditions in a U.K. Amazon workplace. Secret filming reveals pickers were expected to collect orders every 33 seconds, work long hours, were heavily monitored and sometimes had to pick in the dark where lights would fail. Prof Marmot, an expert on stress at work, said that the conditions could cause "mental and physical illness," as well as Amazon warehouse conditions encompassing "all the bad stuff at once."

Amazon said that worker safety is its "number one priority," and the firm relies on the good judgement of its employees to function properly as a business.

Topic: Amazon

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  • Half truth

    the problem is, Ver.di wants its members to be paid as shop employees, whilst Amazon argues that they are working in a logistics centre, so they should be paid at logistics / warehouseman rates - which includes lower compensation for night shifts, because logistic centres are usually expected to work around the clock, whilst shops close at 20:00, so staff having to work longer will receive a much higher compensation, because 20:00 to 09:00 is not a normal time for a shop employee to be working.

    The working conditions is something else, as is the scandal of Amazon's use / treatment of migrant workers for seasonal loads. They use a 3rd party to import workers from poorer countries, they are promised a high wage and flown in to Germany at the companies expense, then the contract they are expected to sign is lower than promised. If they don't sign, they are told to find their own way home, so they generally sign, because they can't afford to get back home.

    The housing and the travel arrangements to and from the housing (summer chalets, with shift workers sharing beds) was also horrendous, when the story broke at the end of last year.

    Amazon said then, that they used a 3rd party contractor and 'weren't aware of the problems'. Let's hope they have sorted them out for this holiday season.
  • Amazon, the Walmart of online discount

    This does not surprise me. The trend is that people in these kinds of jobs now think they are worth more because the company is doing better. Wages are never determined that way, as most jobs are determined by skill level, demand, and available people that can do that job. I wish these people luck in convincing Amazon that they are worth more. But they need to ask themselves how many are waiting in line to take their place?
  • I cannot have an informed opinion on this subject

    Because I haven't seen an yet that actually tells me what the compensation currently is, and what they want it to be. If I knew these numbers I could take a side.
  • Amazon vs. workers

    I'm a long time prime member in the US And I better see a commitment from Amazon to treat their workers better or I might start shopping elsewhere.