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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Amazon faces strikes in Germany on busy Prime Day

Amazon vans line up at a distribution center to pick up packages for delivery on Amazon Prime Day, July 16, 2019, in Orlando, Florida.

Paul Hennessy | NurPhoto | Getty Images

LONDON — Amazon workers are striking in Germany on Prime Day, which is usually one of busiest days of the year for the e-commerce giant.

Warehouse workers in the German cities of Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, Rheinberg, Werne, Graben and Koblenz are due to take part in the strike, which is being organized by German labor union ver.di.

A spokesperson for Amazon told CNBC that customers will still get their orders on time and that the strikes will have no impact on Amazon’s delivery promise.

The strike, taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday, is happening because the union and its members think Amazon workers deserve better pay, working conditions and more respect.

While the exact number of protesters is unknown, ver.di Union Secretary Andre Scheer said he thinks thousands of staff will take part.

Many Amazon customers wait until Prime Day arrives before ordering products they want from the platform. With discounts available across the board, it’s an opportunity to grab a bargain. As buyers rush to Amazon to make purchases, the company’s warehouses are more busy than usual.

“Today our teams, are doing what they do every day — delivering for their customers in an environment that’s fun, engaging and set-up to help them succeed,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “The fact is we already offer excellent pay, excellent benefits and excellent opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment.”

“At Amazon, these benefits and opportunities come with the job, as does the ability to communicate directly with the leadership of the company,” they added.

Ver.di said in a press release that it is also concerned about the “spying” tactics that Amazon is allegedly using to clamp down on labor activists. Amazon deleted two job postings for “intelligence analysts” in September. According to the postings, the jobs involved monitoring various threats perceived by Amazon including trade unions and “hostile political leaders.”

“It is unacceptable for a company to flout the law,” said Orhan Akman, ver.di national specialist for the retail and mail-order sector.

Members of the European Parliament wrote to Amazon boss Jeff Bezos on Oct. 7 asking if his company is hiring intelligence agents to spy on politicians, trade unionists, and members of staff.

At the time, an Amazon spokesperson said: “The job post was not an accurate description of the role — it was made in error and has since been corrected.”

Christy Hoffman, general secretary of the UNI Global Union, said in a statement: “Amazon workers in Germany and everywhere are fighting for better pay and decent working conditions, but they also expect to keep their constitutional rights intact and have private conversations without Big Brother watching over as they organize online.”

Hoffman added: “Amazon has failed to ensure workers’ safety, and we fear that influx of orders and the grueling Prime Day pace will make a bad situation even worse.”

Amazon workers in Germany went on strike in June after staff at several logistics centers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Similar strikes have also taken place in the U.S., where Amazon clamped down hard and fired workers. In May, Amazon VP Tim Bray quit “in dismay” at the firm’s crackdown. In a blog post, the Amazon Web Services engineer said the firing of protesters was evidence of “a vein of toxicity running through the company culture.”

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