German Amazon workers strike in protest over pay and working conditions

Staff at Amazon's site in Leipzig went on a one day strike on Monday, demanding better working conditions and industry-standard wages.

Amazon's Leipzig centre
Amazon's Leipzig centre. Image: Amazon

German Amazon customers might have to wait a little while longer for their purchases to arrive:  according to the German labour union Ver.Di, staff Amazon's Leipzig fulfilment centre stopped working on Monday morning and attended a gathering in front of the site.

"We wanted to show that Amazon is not a perfect world, and that there is dissatisfaction over working conditions," Ver.Di spokesman Jörg Lauenroth-Mago said in a statement. Amazon told German paper Spiegel Online that "less than 380 workers" decided to join the strike, while the union claimed that  between the early and late shifts 500 staff joined the protest.

Amazon has been criticised by unions and workers organisations for not adopting a standard arrangement on pay and conditions used by retailers and mail-order companies in Germany, known as a 'tariff'.

The tariff would give members of unions leverage like strikes, as well bringing in higher hourly wages and overtime for working late shifts.

The tariff isn't mandatory in the sector, however, and Amazon instead bases its pay and conditions arrangements on the standards used in the logistics industry.

Originally, Amazon had planned to have local politicians visit the Leipzig site on Monday. The meeting was subsequently cancelled, with the company telling Spiegel online that "the entrance to the building would be hard to reach and the noise could complicate the discussions as the conference room is close to the street".

This is the second time Ver.Di has organized a strike among Amazon workers in Germany. The first one, staged in March, saw more than half of the employees in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld stop working, according to the workers' union.

"The reaction of the management is completely unintelligible, as they still refuse to join the tariff," Lauenroth-Mago said. "Not adopting the tariff is unacceptable for the biggest player in the mail-order business. Employees have a right to regulated working conditions which are binding, as well as to industry-standard wages."

Amazon employees around 9,000 people in Germany across eight sites, including its two logistics centres in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld.