BERLIN/DUESSELDORF: Hundreds of Amazon.com Inc workers in Germany went on strike yesterday, just as pre-Christmas sales were set to peak, in a dispute over pay and conditions that has raged for months.
Germany is Amazon’s second-biggest market behind the US and sales there grew almost 21 percent in 2012 to $8.7bn, a third of its overseas total. Amazon took its most daily orders in Germany last December 16, when almost 4 million articles were bought, with shipments peaking on December 17.
Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centres, said 1,115 staff had joined the strike at three sites, but there had been no delays to deliveries.
“Our customers can continue to rely on us for the prompt delivery of their Christmas presents,” a spokeswoman said, adding that Amazon uses its whole European logistics network over the Christmas period to ensure delivery times.
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.
For the first time, the union also called a strike in Graben, where Verdi said 600 workers took part.
“The Amazon system is characterised by low wages, permanent performance pressure and short-term contracts,” Verdi board member Stefanie Nutzenberger said in a statement.
A delegation of German workers was due to rally at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle along with US unions.
In addition, workers in Amazon’s centre in the German town of Werne will protest today, while strikes are expected to continue all week in Leipzig and until tomorrow in Bad Hersfeld.
“Amazon must realise it cannot export its anti-union labour model to European shores. We call on the company to come to the table and sign a global agreement that guarantees the rights of workers,” said Philip Jennings of global trade union UNI.
Verdi has organised several short stoppages this year to try to force Amazon to accept collective bargaining agreements in the mail order and retail industry as benchmarks for workers’ pay at Amazon’s German distribution centres.
But Amazon’s German country head Ralf Kleber said the company would not bow to pressure from striking workers and was more worried about bad weather hurting Christmas deliveries, he said in an interview last month.