German workers announce Amazon Prime Day 2020 strikes over pay and conditions

Jill Petzinger
·Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3 min read
KOBERN-GONDORF, GERMANY - JUNE 29: A general view of an Amazon warehouse is pictured during the coronavirus pandemic on June 29, 2020 in Kobern-Gondorf near Koblenz, Germany. The Verdi labor union has called for strikes at six Amazon warehouse across Germany in order to put pressure on the company over an ongoing disagreement over pay as well as improving workplace conditions to help prevent outbreaks of the coronavirus. Approximately 40 Amazon employees tested positive recently for Covid-19 infection at an Amazon warehouse in Bad Hersfeld. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
An Amazon warehouse pictured during the coronavirus pandemic on June 29, 2020 in Kobern-Gondorf, Germany. The Verdi labor union called for strikes at six Amazon warehouse across Germany in order to put pressure on the company over an ongoing disagreement over pay as well as improving workplace conditions to help prevent coronavirus outbreaks. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Germany trade union Verdi has called for workers at Amazon (AMZN) warehouses across Germany to go on a two-day strike beginning on Amazon Prime Day 2020 on 13 October.

“Employees have been giving their best since the beginning of the corona pandemic, often without adequate protection,” said Orhan Akman, the Verdi representative for the mail order trade, adding that workers have not seen any recompense for this huge additional stress.

Dispatch centres at Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, Rheinberg, Werne, Graben near Augsburg, and Koblenz have been called to join the strike.

"While Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has earned billions, the allowance of two euros per hour that was granted to the employees in March, was abolished again at the end of end of May,” Akman said in his statement.

"Amazon is far removed from the economic problems faced by [bricks-and-mortar] retail chains, which have been confronted with lockdown and other corona-restrictions,” he added.

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Akman said that the extra corona hourly allowance that had been paid earlier in the year should be converted into a permanent salary increase for employees “because employees generate profit for the company.”

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“The parcels will arrive punctually with the customers, we envisage no effects from the strikes,” an Amazon Germany spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“The fact is that Amazon already offers excellent wages, excellent benefits and excellent career opportunities - all in a safe, modern work environment,” the statement said. “The wage package including the additional benefits and our working conditions are comparable with other important employers in the region.”

A survey from the American chamber of Commerce in Germany this week revealed that Amazon, for the first time, had the highest turnover of any US company in Germany last year. With a turnover of €19.85bn (£18bn, $23.5bn), it overtook Ford in 2019.

In terms of the number of staff it employs, Amazon is in third place among US companies in Germany, after McDonald’s (MCD) and Ford (F), employing 20,000 staff.

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Amazon had agreed a salary increase of 1.8% in September, Verdi’s Akman said, but added that since Amazon is now a member of the German trade association, it needs to agree to a collective tariff agreement.

Akman also criticised allegations of spying on Amazon employees. In the past few days, he noted, trade unions from 15 European countries, including Verdi, have requested that the EU Commission carry out an investigation into “possibly illegal” activities by Amazon against employees in Europe. Thirty-seven members of the European Parliament, he said, have written an open letter to Bezos asking him to change course.

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