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Germans revolt against Amazon

by on17 December 2013

On strike just before Christmas

After a year of trying to negotiate with Amazon, German trade unions have gone on strike just as the outfit is going to make stonking profits over its busiest part of the year. German unions have been trying to make Amazon take its workers seriously, something which has been slowly breed out of the DNA of US management for decades.

Germany is Amazon's second-biggest market behind the United States and sales there grew almost 21 percent in 2012 to $8.7 billion, a third of its overseas total. Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centers, said 1,115 staff had joined the strike at three sites, but there had been no delays to deliveries.

The Verdi union said up to 700 workers joined the strike in Amazon's logistic centre in Bad Hersfeld, plus 500 to 600 in Leipzig. The union also called a strike in Graben, where Verdi said 600 workers took part. Verdi has had enough of the American way of low wages, permanent performance pressure and short-term contracts.

Philip Jennings of global trade union UNI said it was time that Amazon realized it could export its anti-union labour model to European shores. He called on the company to come to the table and sign a global agreement that guarantees the rights of workers.

An Amazon spokesman said the company would not surrender to striking workers. He claimed that bad weather would do much more harm to Amazon’s Christmas sales than striking workers. Amazon pays warehouse workers well according to the standards of the logistics industry, starting at 9.55 euros an hour, and does not think the more generous terms of the mail order and retail sector are justified. Just to make sure, Amazon has been building three new logistics centres in Poland and two in the Czech Republic. This has sparked rumours that Amazon wants to move to these countries where the workforce will be cheaper and tamer although this was denied by Amazon.

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