Amazon workers in Germany prepare to revolt

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


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.