Amazon warehouse workers in Germany go on strike

March 31, 2014 02:39 PM

Labor troubles continued for Inc. in Germany today as fulfillment center workers went on strike to win higher wages.

The Ver.di union (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, or United Services Union) says the strike involves 500 of about 1,200 workers at Amazon's warehouse in the eastern German city of Leipzig. An spokeswoman says the strike involves no more than 340 workers.

Amazon operates eight more German distribution centers besides the warehouse in Leipzig. “Amazon did not see any impact on customer shipments,” the spokeswoman says.  Further information from the union was not immediately available, and it was not clear how long the strike might last.

Amazon is No. 1 in the Europe 500 and the Top 500.

Ver.di wants the higher wages that would come from warehouse workers winning classification as being part of retail or mail order industries; in Germany, industries have specific wage rates, or tariffs. The union has said Amazon warehouse workers in Germany earn two-thirds the wages offered by comparable firms in the country.

Amazon argues that its distribution center employees are part of the logistics industry, and that its German warehouse workers “earn toward the upper end of the pay scale compared to other logistics companies.” That translates into an entry wage of 9.55 euros per hour (about US$13.15 per hour), plus bonus, insurance and pension pay. “After one year employees earn more than 10 euros, and after two years, employees get shares in the company,”  the Amazon spokeswoman says. “Therefore we see no benefit in a tariff agreement for customers or associates.”

The retailer doesn’t want to negotiate with the German union, either. “In all of our logistics centers, we have employee representation, either as works councils or as employee committees with whom we work,” the spokeswoman says.

Amazon workers in Germany also went on strike on April 9, when 600 German workers in the town of Bad Hersfeld stood outside the retailer’s facility there to protest Amazon’s refusal to bargain with the union on wages, according to Ver.di. Late last year, during the holiday shopping season, a Ver.di delegation and protesters from similar U.S. groups  protested at Amazon headquarters in Seattle.





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