Amazon Workers in Germany Step Up Strikes Over Wages

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Amazon.com Inc. workers in Germany went on strike at five logistics centers as the Ver.di union pushes the U.S. online retailer to join collective bargaining agreements.

“Amazon owes its employees such an agreement,” Stefanie Nutzenberger, a Ver.di board member, said in an e-mailed statement. Doing so would be “an effective tool to limit work pressures and help mitigate the considerable impacts on shift workers’ health from working nights and weekends.”

The strike, which started this morning and lasts for three days, will affect logistics centers in Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig, Graben, Werne and Rheinberg, according to the union. Workers in Germany, the retailer’s biggest market outside the U.S., have held walkouts in the last 1 1/2 years demanding that the Seattle-based company recognize industrywide labor agreements.

“The strike action hasn’t had an impact on Amazon keeping its delivery promise,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “A large majority of employees are working normally.”

The dispute highlights the conflict between Amazon’s business approach -- built on cost flexibility -- and a labor model in Germany that dates from the middle of the 19th century. The company has about 15,000 German logistics workers, including those on temporary contracts, according to the union.

The union says Amazon’s method of dealing with workers individually or in small groups has led to many employees being on short-term contracts, people not getting sufficient breaks and higher sick rates. It also says employees should be classified as retail rather than logistics workers to justify higher wages. The current strike follows a walk out last month that also hit a number a logistics centers, with about 2,000 workers taking part, the union said.

Amazon has said that it pays logistics workers at the upper end of what’s usual in the sector and that employees wouldn’t benefit from collective wage agreements.

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