German Amazon Workers Strike, Go to Seattle

Workers at three warehouses struck Monday, another warehouse targeted Tuesday
December 16, 2013 Updated: December 17, 2013

MUNICH—Hundreds of workers at Amazon in Germany have walked off the job in an effort to put pressure on the American online retailer in the busy days before Christmas to settle on a new wage agreement.

The German ver.di union said Monday that several hundred workers were staging one-day warning strikes at Amazon logistics centers in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, and Graben. The so-called warning strikes will continue Tuesday in the town of Werne. Inc. confirmed 640 morning shift workers did not arrive for work. The company, does not, however, expect disruptions in holiday delivery.

“Our customers can continue to rely on us for the prompt delivery of their Christmas presents,” an Amazon spokeswoman told Reuters.

In Germany, Christmas Eve is the big day for gifts, and one week seems long enough to cushion the effect of Monday’s action, provided there are no further strikes.

Seattle Protests

Ver.di said German workers will also picket with American colleagues outside the Amazon headquarters in Seattle to press their demands.

“The workers are treated more as robots than human,” Markus Hoffmann-Achenbach, a union organizer told The New York Times. He is going to Seattle to participate in a protest by German workers in front of Amazon headquarters.

No U.S. Amazon workers have announced strikes or demonstrations, but the German workers hope their American counterparts will lend them support.

Classification Problem

The union said Amazon workers receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs. Amazon said its distribution warehouses in Germany are logistics centers and employees are already paid on the upper end of what workers in that industry earn. Logistics workers generally earn less than warehouse workers, which is what the union classifies workers as.

At this moment, there is no collective bargaining agreement in place for the Amazon workers in Germany. Amazon has about 9,000 full-time employees in Germany.

In addition, there are complaints about employment monitoring and demanding targets.

“The Amazon system is characterized by low wages, permanent performance pressure, and short-term contracts,” according to a Ver.di statement.

An investigative report by the BBC about Amazon warehouses in the United Kingdom found that such conditions could result in “mental and physical illness,” whereas Amazon told the BBC that worker safety was its “number one priority.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.